Wednesday, 14 December 2011


Today I decided to take the ball throwers and go down to the Big Field. I'm never quite sure when it became the Big Field, that's just what we call it. There are two other fields we go to for ball throwing, the Vallum Field and the field by Sugley Dene. I know that this caused confusion with the kids when we first got the dogs as they referred to the field by Sugley Dene as the Vallum Field because the pub called the Vallum is at the far end of this field.

We call the other field the Vallum Field (or just "the Vallum") because it happens to be the site of the old Roman earthwork of that name which is associated with Hadrian's Wall. Apparently there was a road crossing the Vallum at this particular point which makes it more interesting than most bits of the Vallum although the big tourist buses never venture down Southway to see it. It just goes to show that if you want to find the gems of the Roman Wall you have to go under your own steam.

It is a pretty grey and miserable day today, overcast with stratus clouds. The wind has dropped since yesterday and the sleety rain seems to have cleared for now, but it was definitely a day for wrapping up against the cold.

Walking along with three dogs and two ball chuckers should pose no real problems for a man of my size and in the summer I can happily claim that it doesn't. Even the inevitable complication of picking up their waste as you go poses little real difficulty. So what is it about the winter that makes this so much harder? Not icy conditions, because although cold it hasn't been that cold. No, it's the extra clothes, and especially the gloves. Don't get me wrong, I like my layers very much, otherwise I wouldn't be wearing them. Have you ever tried scooping up dog poo wearing gloves? Not only do you lose the required amount of friction with the clean side of the bag but you inevitably fail to pick a piece up, or drop what you have, or something else will go wrong. After all that you have to tie the bag up, introducing a whole raft of other issues. So, no matter how cold it is, you need to take off at least one glove. This done, you have an opportunity to allow the occurrence of what gloves do best; get lost. This nearly happened at one point today but luckily I was looking for the glove as I walked off and noticed that it was not in the pocket I had put it in. The three dogs were most unhappy at backtracking to fetch it.

Going to the Big Field means going past all those cat memories that I mentioned elsewhere. As Amazon is the main culprit I sorted out the leads as follows: Holly's over my left wrist with Holly on my right hand side and R&A on my right wrist but walking on my left. I ran Amazon's lead through my right hand to shorten it and stop her pulling ahead and let Rover on a loose lead where he would happily walk at the same pace as Amazon. Whenever we came to a cat memory I stopped for a little while to let Amazon see that there were no cats there which I think helped a little bit.

Eventually we got to the Big Field. I let the dogs off the lead and threw the first ball as far as possible and R&A dutifully chased after it. Holly had other plans, which I had to pick up. R&A chased the ball and eventually settled down to wait. Holly wanted me to throw the other ball, but I wouldn't. I need to take two balls with me for several reasons. The first is that R&A have always competed in chasing a single ball. There appears to be two objects to this game; the first being to catch the ball, the second being for the other dog to chase the one with the ball. The first throw of the day always takes the most time to resolve.

We had no luck training the lurchers to retrieve. It just doesn't seem to be in their natures. Rover at one point seemed to make some progress but then reverted when Amazon made it clear she was having nothing to do with it. They do listen to a leave command however, so if you get near them and call "Leave" they will either drop the ball or stop and put it down.

I got over to the lurchers and retrieved their yellow ball. I threw it far again and the three dogs ran after it. Holly was as usual at the tail end of this chase and soon stopped and barked at the other two. She then turned and I then threw the other (pink) ball in a different direction. I kept collecting both balls and throwing long and short until Holly lost the pink ball. You would think that a pink ball on a field of mown green grass would be easy enough to find. It wasn't. I kept throwing the yellow ball knowing that Holly would never catch it, while retracing Holly's pawsteps until I found the offending object hiding in plain sight.

The ball throwing continued for a while before I reckoned they were getting tired. The usual sign of this is that Amazon will take the ball and lie down with it either in some long grass or under a bush. I retrieved both balls and started across the field, with three expectant dogs running around me. I glanced back and spotted something blue on the ground. I had wrapped the bag with Holly's latest offering around a finger, but with wearing gloves I never noticed the bag slip from my finger. I had to backtrack again to pick it up.

I do not understand the people who pick up their dog's waste and then leave it lying on the ground. Obviously in this case if I had not looked back I would have been guilty of doing the same thing, so there may be an element of accident involved. What I really get mad about are the people who bag up the wast and then decide it would be a good idea to hang the little doggy gift on a nearby tree, ready for the poo fairy to came and collect, no doubt.

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