Category: Dogs

Walking Dave

Picture the scene.

I’m sitting on the sofa watching TV. There is a small brindle dog lying next to me, gently snoring. At my feet a small black dog lies on a rug, knawing on a chew toy. He stops, stands up, and turns around to face me. He whines pathetically, his bottom lip petted. He needs out.

“OK then,” I say as I stand up, “let’s go”. He steps back and then follows me out into the hall.

I slip on my shoes, pull on my jacket, check I have my keys and some poo bags, and reach for his harness and lead.

He does not like putting his harness on. Honestly you’d think it was full of spikes or something; the second you lift it off the hook, he turns and heads back to the living room only to remembers he needs out, upon which he turns round and walks back into the hall, stopping a few feet away from where I stand.

I beckon him forward. He takes one more step forward and waits.

I reach down and slide the harness over his head, click both fasteners closed, wait for him to do his usual circle around me (no idea why) and open the front door.

All the while, the snoring from the living room continues.

Dave and I step out and head for our first stop. It’s not far, he needs to pee after all, but he’s pulling on the lead. I can sympathise, we’ve all had that feeling when the cool air hits you, so I pick up my pace. After checking there is no-one around, no other dogs at least, I unclip the lead from his harness. He quickly heads off to find a spot and once he has he leans forward, head held aloft, striking a very regal pose for a most unregal activity.

Don’t worry, this is not a post about taking my dog out for a pee.

But it is about the simple joy of being outside, rain or shine, with a faithful companion.

We are lucky that we live where there are a few small parks dotted around nearby. In less than 10 mins we can be in leafy green area where Dave can be let off the lead (after checking we are mostly alone of course) to roam and wander and explore. We also have a larger park near us, big enough to host a Parkrun (5km weekend run), where I occasionally take Dave and, once he realises where we are heading he knows that a tennis ball will feature soon and, once that wonderous yellow orb has made an appearance, it’s all he cares about. I’ve yet to see him distracted for more than a few seconds when there is a tennis ball involved.

But mostly his walks are around the local neighbourhood.

He is well trained and loves loves LOVES being on a walk. He is handsome, has a glossy coat and a ready smile for passers-by and sometimes, if you are lucky, he’ll want to stop and say hello but mostly he is DOING A WALK and can be very single-minded on this so let’s be clear, unless you have treats, he may not care that you think he’s a good boy, or that he’s handsome, or a ‘wee cracker’, because he is DOING A WALK. It’s nothing personal but he ain’t stopping, he has places to go, smells to seek out and who knows, maybe a squirrel friend to make!

You get pretty good at reading the body language of other people when you are walking a dog. I know not everyone likes dogs (aka weirdos) and so if I see someone we are approaching trying to eek out every centimetre of the pavement, hugging the kerb, then I’ll make it obvious that Dave is not able to get anywhere near them. He’s also a very good boy at STOPPING and WAITING if that’s what is gonna be less hassle for everyone else.

There are several places where he gets let off to roam. These parts of the walk are the best and the worst. They are the best as it’s clear Dave loves exploring all the wonderful smells, and they are the worst because I’m constantly scanning around for any possible distractions or anything that might cause an issue – a jogger, another dog, a squirrel (!) – whilst keeping an eye on Dave as he meanders around, following his nose.

All of these places are reasonably enclosed, small parks or areas of grass, and Dave will happily roam around and follow commands if he wanders off too far. He loves to chase birds and squirrels, because he wants to be friends with them, and occasionally that can take him a little too close to a gate or road for comfort. My heart races as I holler his name in the right tone, the one that (so far!) has made him stop dead and turn round.

He really is a good boy.

It’s something I tell him often whilst we are out walking, rain or shine, as he walks on with a dogged determination to get where he is going even if that means sometimes we will both have different ideas of where that is when we get to a particular corner or a crossing, and so you may see me standing with a small black dog leaning all his weight in one direction, whilst I stand pointing in the other direction and suggesting that ‘No Dave, we are going this way’. Some days I let him win, it’s his walk as much as mine.

Dave and I will chat most of the time when we are out on a walk, and whilst it’s a pretty one way conversation – not because he’s rude or anything but he is DOING A WALK and just doesn’t have time for idle chit-chat – I always come home feeling good about myself.

Perhaps it’s because there is such a singular purpose to taking him for a walk, a focus and purity to the activity that I don’t get elsewhere. There is me and Dave and the walk. Nothing else really matters, as long as I keep him safe and he has fun then I’m happy, and somewhere along the way my own mind clears and some days I find myself taking a longer route home just to enjoy my time with him.

Considering he’s only been in my life for about a year it’s safe to say that we’ve bonded pretty well, and whilst the old adage likely holds true – you are only as good as your last walk – and I have to battle for his affections with our dog walker, I still look forward to taking him out.

It also makes me appreciate our corner of this beautiful city we live in all the more, and how many small green places it has, some hidden away in odd corners or dead ends, and on the days the sun is shining and the plants are in full bloom it is utterly glorious. Just me, the fresh air, nature all around us, a small furry black dog who sometimes turns to look at you with the biggest smile you’ve ever seen.

It’s quite simply the best therapy I’ve ever experienced.

We finally get home, and as soon as the door is unlocked and opened Sasha sprints through from the living room to greet us with her usual frantic abandon. She runs in circles, tail wagging madly as I unclip the harness and let Dave wander off to get a drink and rub up and down the sofa to get the feeling of that horrible, terrifying harness off of him.

I’ll grab a glass of water and sit down myself. Sasha will rush over and promptly sit on my lap (to make sure I don’t leave again), and I’ll sit there a while, telling her she’s a good girl whilst I rub her tummy.

The Dogs

If you don’t follow me on social media then, dear reader, you will probably not have noticed that I now co-habit with two dogs (and their Mum, it was a package deal).

Their names are Sasha and Dave, they are Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and they are the most adorable weird furry little things and I am utterly smitten with both of them.

I grew up with a golden retriever. My parents got her not long after I was born, photos of me crawling to steal and chew on the young pups bones exist, and for the first 15 years of my life there was always a dog around, mooching for biscuits, and generally falling asleep and lying in the most unhelpful places possible (and then standing up when you went to step over her). I loved her dearly and have so many fond memories of her.

I’d forgotten how much fun it was having dogs around. Having a dog hop up on the sofa (where they are allowed) and curl up next to you is wonderful, having a dog stand silently right behind you in the kitchen less so but that’s all part of the fun. One of them is a wee grump who will always make sure you aren’t giving anyone else any love, so much so she’ll force her way between you to make sure you realise she is there, the other is the most chilled out little weirdo I’ve ever met, a handsome guy that sits happily watching TV with you, ‘talking’ to all the animal friends that appear on the screen.

They’ll sit when told, they won’t touch their dinner or Kong treats until they are allowed, and they know which rooms they are allowed in and which they aren’t, even if they do continue to test that boundary. They are not allowed upstairs, but Sasha can frequently be found with two front legs on the bottom stair, which technically isn’t ON the stairs… right?

Sasha is the older of the two, she’s had a hip op so can get a little stiff if she’s been bounding about like a puppy (which she still does of course). She’s a rescue, and has a little bit of separation anxiety so whenever you get home she is OFF THE SCALE HAPPY TO SEE YOU! even if you only went out to get something from the car… She’s also very protective of her pack, which makes her a wee bit grumpy with other dogs (because Dave might make friends with them, god forbid!) but most dog owners are understanding when we let them know she’s just a noisy grump (very very much bark worse than bite). She is always wanting a belly rub, and is forever making sure that she is getting whatever attention and love is going, even if that means shouldering or head-butting Dave out of the way. She’s a wee grumbly girl and I just love her personality.

Dave is the ‘puppy’ and doesn’t seem to realise he’s built like a tank. He’s the gentlest, most laid-back dog I’ve ever met. In comparison to Sasha, when I get home, Dave will wander over, stretch a little, check me out and then wander off. If Dave could he’d make friends with ALL the animals he sees, especially the wee black cat he spots everyday from his window sill lookout. I don’t know if the cat can hear Dave whining and talking to him but what a racket! Dave also likes a ball. If Dave has a ball there is nothing else but the ball. We also have to make sure Dave drinks plenty of water as he’s on medication after having a few fits in the past. Dave likes to curl up in my chair, or plonk himself next to you on the sofa and watch TV with you (until Sasha leaps up as well to get in the way…).

It’s been only a few months but I already can’t imagine not having them in my life. Regardless of the 3am emergency pees, the walks in the snow – top tip Staffys don’t really like bad weather, Sasha especially who can pee in about 4 seconds before turning and heading back home as quick as she can – the worries when they choke on something, the scratches when Sasha jumps up on my lap, or Dave’s whining when he wants something late at night (usually up on the sofa cos you are in his ‘spot’), they make me smile every single day.

Their breed still suffers from bad press, not as much but it’s still there. I’ve not witnessed it often but you do occasionally get people veering away, or crossing the road altogether. To be clear, the breed isn’t the issue. If I dog attacks or bites a human it’s either badly trained, or badly provoked.

I’m lucky that these two have been well trained and well loved already, so it’s been pretty easy for me to learn their ways and the commands needed. The worst thing Sasha might ever do is ‘hold’ your hand in her mouth, which is exactly as it sounds as she doesn’t bite at all. The worst thing Dave might ever do is… well I’ve no idea cos mostly he’ll say hi and then bugger off and leave you to it. I mean, he does have a bad habit of always standing on one of my feet when he’s near me, but that’s just a paw to paw high-five, right?

It’s a complete change to all my routines; factoring in doggy dinner times, what to do with them if we are out for the night, making sure that Dave gets a good walk everyday, but I really wouldn’t have it any other way.

The other night we were sitting on the sofa, and when Becca got up, Dave quickly leaped into her spot. Not to be undone, Sasha quickly joined and there I was, on the sofa with Dave on one side, Sasha on the other. My furry little goofballs.