Wednesday, 25 January 2012

In the dark

Yesterday's walk had to wait long after our lurchers' regular walkies. Cath and I had both been out all day and she was tired when she got in.

I put the one working flashing collar on Rover because he tends to go further than Amazon, then set off on our perambulations. Off we trotted, me keeping a nice steady pace, they at full pelt and many sidelong glances to reproach me for my lack of speed. It was a bit cloudy but the rain had ceased, which was nice.

It was hard not to think about Holly but I think that the lurchers are dealing with it a lot better than we are. To them she was an interloper, eventually accepted but still often annoying. She was a cute dog in many ways, but she had enormous capacity to annoy.

Down in the Dene, the dogs were off and exploring the dark. It is very unusual walking the dogs in the dark when you are used to seeing them running about - even when they manage to camouflage themselves, you have a fair idea of where they are. In the dark all you have to go by are shadows, jingles of collars and flashes from Rover's collar. I had a headtorch on in case I needed to examine the ground but it was pretty useless for illuminating the path, for although on one level it was dark in the unlit sections, on the other there is a lot of light that leaks in from either side and so the torch beam is weakened.

In the open area it became possible to see a lot further. The two of them had a polite greeting with a labrador, no bullying, which is always nice. Along the section leading to the lower bridge there were three men with six dogs., which can make things a bit anxious. It was Eric with his two lurchers with a couple of friends. Rover and Amazon know Eric's dogs, a brindled saluki cross who is absolutely beautiful and a smaller red hound (still bigger than ours), but have not seen them for ages so they were having a good run around and were making a lot of noise (Rover especially). This seemed to grow the longer I stood and talked, so in the end I decided to say goodnight and wander on. As soon as was polite, the two of them disappeared into the undergrowth to do a spot of hunting.

They came after a couple of calls and we headed home. It was the first official post-Holly walk and we all coped very well with the new reality.

Monday, 23 January 2012

A sad day :o(

Today we were having a delayed walk as I decided that I needed to get my Civil Service online test out of the way. Holly sat at my feet all the way through and was her usual self when anyone came to the door. Some time around twelve we got around to the little rituals of dog walking; the picking up of the poo bags, the sitting for the leads.

Holly did not appear, so I called her and Becky looked in to the living room and looked upset. Holly walked out of the living room, her back legs barely moving. She has had an episode like this before and we tried rubbing some life back into her hip. She seemed a little better for this, but clearly was not going to manage a full walk. I suggested to Cath that we all go out together but that I take the lurchers on a regular walk while she would see if Holly could manage a short loo-break walk. After that she and Becky could take Holly up to the vet. Cath initially seemed hopeful that Holly would perk up a bit once she was under steam, but she did not even make it to the grass before she had to stop for a poo, right on the roadside. This was very unusual in itself as she never goes unless she is on grass or gravel. Holly managed to waddle a little further, but then she just sat on the grass, from where she did not want to do anything. Cath tried to pick Holly up but failed, so I handed Rover and Amazon's leads to her and picked up Holly and carried her back. The lurchers reacted as they do to any dog that is being carried and started jumping up and barking, so I told Cath to follow at a distance. I set Holly down in her basket, patted her head and went back out with the lurchers.

It was the only goodbye I had.

I did the first half of the walk in a bit of a daze, thinking about the missing dog. I must admit that I was worried for her health but did not think that it would be the end. We went to the Number 38 turning circle and walked down the Dene. Since the New Year this has become the Usual Walk, as I decided that there was too much cat-association tension involved going the shorter way into Denton Dene, so the longer option is now preferred. I let the lurchers off the lead once I had the dazzle of the low winter sun out of my eyes and I was certain there was nobody in their immediate path. I followed the higher path near the school fence, just for a change.

Rover ran around me but Amazon spent most of that time on the other side of the Dene or in the bottom. They came when I called and we came to the meeting of the ways together. I had considered going straight on and so take the more nature-friendly route through the Dene, but Amazon was enjoying not having Holly behind her and was running all over the place and so I stayed on the usual path across the open field and so up and round. On the way up Rover found a liver retriever who had a ball and so Rover stole said ball when it was next thrown. I told Rover to leave, then put him on the lead because he is a ball thief and it is easier that way. I let him off the lead once we were out of sight, however I did not trust him not to double back, so I detoured over the lower bridge, around the big field and back home.

Normally that would be the end of my blog for the day, but when I got back, Cath and Becky were just going out with Holly. I went upstairs to look at a few job adverts and before I knew it they were back. Holly's spleen had burst and she was unlikely to survive. We went back up but she had slipped into unconsciousness long before we were back, then her heart had stopped beating. Apparently she had been carrying a benign tumour for some time, but it had been putting pressure on her spleen. The vet said that she would have not felt anything and certainly she did not seem in distress other than being puzzled by her inability to walk.

RIP little lodger dog.

A long diversion from the normal walk.

Yesterday's walk was something out of the ordinary. Cath was at work, so it was just me and the dogs. I fooled the dogs by making it look like the usual walk, then doubled back and into Sugley Dene. I wanted to see whether the Council had opened up the path through the lower part of the Dene.

Amazon got things off to a start when she spotted a cat brazenly walking through a garden, but once we were past that place, things boiled down to just wanting to be off. I knew that they would assume we would be going up the Dene, so I let Holly off the lead first so that Amazon would not hare off into the distance. I kept the dogs close until they knew that I had turned down the Dene, after which they got the message and changed direction. I thought I would go along the side of the stream rather than across the field as I had no ball with me and it would give the dogs more to do.

I put the dogs back on the lead to cross the road and had a look at what used to be the entrance to the Dene. When they first closed the footpath through the Dene there was a sign up to explain the closure, but that has now gone and there is nothing to say when it will be opened again. There was certainly no sign that any work has been carried out to improve the state of the paths through the Dene.

Well, the continued closure put an end to the walk that I wanted to make, but I decided I would walk down to Bells Close anyway. There is a tarmac path that runs most of the way down the side of the Dene, so I decided to walk along that way. The dogs were a bit non-plused by all this, as this was definitely NOT our usual walk!

I got to Bells Close, where I was thinking of giving the dogs a bit of time off the lead so that they could run down to the stream, have a drink and then come back up, but I decided that they would be just as likely to disappear out of reach, so I turned towards home. That of course meant that I had to head down a little further before I could find the grassy bit that runs up beside the A1 and finally let them off the lead.

Rover and Amazon were off like a shot. After Holly had done her "chase Amazon" routine, she dropped back to walk behind me. We were overtaken by a man and his rather mad wire haired lurcher who was much bigger than my two and he bowled into them, only to find that two little lurchers can hold their own against one bigger one. They played nicely though - lots of noise but no aggression. Then as we walked up the hill we passed a collie pup who also wanted to play, then decided to sit on my feet when the prospect of three adult dogs running around in circles became a bit too much.

We reached the field where we usually throw balls for the dogs. Here Rover decided to mount Holly, who had been waving her tail in his face for the past week. Normally our reaction is to shout at Rover when he does this, but I thought I would just let it be. He has been neutered anyway, so Holly was quite safe!

So we got back onto the paths, put on the leads and wandered home.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Little Lost Lurcher

Happy New Year Blogosphere!

I seem to have taken a bit of a break on the blog, mostly to do with the Christmas season, but as the last five of the Twelve Days of Christmas see us getting our lives back together, I thought I would put finger to keypad and get going again.

I’m going to start with a look back to Little Christmas Eve – the 23rd December. It was a lovely day with blue skies, light winds and mild air. I had planned a bit of a change in the usual round of dog walking to include exercising our little ones as well. Some days you can get away with not exercising your children but they had broken up from school the day before and Christmas was two days away. They were in more need of unbouncing than Tigger.

So we got in the car and drove up to Whittle Dene. This is a favourite walk for ourselves, the dogs and the little ones and that day we also had Stephen with us, our second-born, back from University for the holidays. We drove up the A69, turned off for Ovington, then took a bumpy, splashy ride along St Andrew’s Lane, which is a public byway, and parked up in the usual spot at the Lane End. Rover was over-excited from the start and he grew more and more squeaky in his barks as we got closer, for he knows and loves this walk. Amazon and Holly stayed in the back, but Rover squeezed through to the middle and had a good view of what was going on.

We had our walking boots on as we know from previous winter visits that the Dene gets pretty muddy at this time of year. We had to hold the dogs back while we put on our boots and they were getting very hyper. Eventually Amazon squeezed past Cath, closely followed by Rover. Holly stayed in the back until it was opened and then ran around us barking for a while as she had not been able to do her trademark trick of running after Amazon and barking at the point that she could no longer keep up.

From the start Amazon was off doing her own thing. This is the normal pattern for this particular walk as she know that she has flushed deer out of cover in this location before, and in typical Amazon style she thinks there will always be deer to flush out. So we walked down into the Dene and waited at the bridge until the lurchers were back, giving Holly some time to feel a little more adventurous than usual.

We didn’t expect to see many people and so it was. Normally there is at least one other car parked up at the Lane End but not that day. As we headed up the Dene I noticed a couple of other dogs, one of which was an Alsatian, ranging about higher up the east side of the dene. Holly must have thought it was R&A as she sped up the hill to join them, but the lurchers were already well ahead.

This is the usual pattern of our walks here, unless we have plenty of time and are in the mood to explore: down to the bridge by the huts, wait for R&A to turn up after their initial romp, head up the valley with R&A going on ahead, wait at the upper bridge for them to arrive, climb out of the Dene and follow the bridleway that runs alongside the Dene southwards to  St Andrew’s Lane End. That day did not go according to plan.
The boys were having a great time getting their clothes muddy as they found all of their favourite climbs and scrambles. When they reached the bridge they were not inclined to wait and headed off. Holly was nearby and Rover returned to the call of the whistle, so we decided to start up the hill and not wait for Amazon as we thought she would find us as long as we were whistling for her. We made decent progress, stopping from time to time to call or whistle but there was no sign of Amazon. We carried on anyway, as we knew that she could quite happily appear at any point of the route back and still be able to beat us back to the car. However, the further along the bridleway we went, the more nervous we were getting as she was looking to be more and more lost.

Then Cath’s phone rang. I laughingly suggested that it was Amazon calling to find out where we had got to, and that turned out to be about right. It was a call from home: someone had called to say they had found Amazon “at the bottom of the Dene.”

Before I say anything else, I have to say that I am very grateful for this call, and for the subsequent help. However, we interpreted “the bottom of the Dene” to be where it comes out near Ovingham, over a kilometre from where we were. I hurried on, overtaking the boys who had been keeping ahead of us all the way. I called and whistled for Amazon from the Lane End but of course I was pointing the wrong way, as it turned out. Cath decided that she was unhappy with the information, so she called back home and got Owain to find out the number of the person who had told us they had found Amazon. She was then able to speak to them directly and learned that Amazon was near what I think of as the upper bridge. Some people walk into the Dene from the A69 and I imagine that to them this bridge is the lowest point of their walk and so would be the bottom of the Dene.

By the time we had this information, we were back at the huts. The boys were already ahead, ready for lap 2 of the Dene. As I was sure that Amazon would find her own way back to the car, I decided to go back and walk the route backwards. I ran up the slope and jogged back up along the bridleway, calling and whistling across the fields in case she was up looking for rabbits or hares. Eventually I reached the path down to the upper bridge and I called again, to be answered by Cath – they had found her.

When Amazon saw me she didn’t want to look me in the eye. She knew she was in trouble. She was wet and muddy and looking as unbounced as I had ever seen her. I decided to put her on her lead rather than risk her running off again. I know her style, as soon as she thinks she is forgiven, she is off again. Cath thought I was being mean to her, but by the end of the bridleway I was vindicated. Rover was off again and Amazon straining to be after him. I put down water behind the car and fastened her lead to the tow bar. Holly was happy to have a drink and be back in the car, but Amazon was distracted until Cath finally got Rover back.

Thus ended our double walk of Sugley Dene. Unfortunately it will be our last for some time as two days later (yes, on Christmas Day!) the timing belt went on the car and we are now without our own car, so it will be local walks only for the foreseeable future.