My dog sees a bench and sits on it, others just cock their leg.
I am always being told that people love reading about Blue, and am often asked has anything else happened with Blue lately? The answer is, yes, the dog and I regularly face, err… challenges. For me, these continuous life bumps are best forgotten. In fact, they are so common I ignor them. It seems, there is demand for these little tales of my humiliation, so I have started writing them down again. I have two accounts sitting in my Drafts, right now, which I will publish later when some time has passed. Here is one that happened just last week, so are you sitting comfortably?
It was grey, it had been raining on and off all day, everything was limp and unimpressed. Sitting in traffic on the drive home from work, I looked at the sky and there seemed to be a break in the weather, so I decided to take the dog for a walk. When I got home, rather than collapsing in a heap on the sofa with a coffee, I grabbed the lead, the dog and a jacket and turned around before I could change my mind. It has become apparent, that these tales of woe are often set in motion by a series of small decisions or events that seem to gather momentum. Of course, I have no idea that this is happening at the time. Small decision number one, I did not change out of my work clothes.
The dog jumped into the boot of the car, licked my face with his stinky ham of a tongue and sat on the shopping bags and medical kit, not the clear space with a towel clearly meant for him. I dropped the keys and as I bent to pick them up, Blue jumped out thinking there was another plan afoot and the pile of newspapers escaped into the air like printed gulls. I had to chase them down the street. Back in the car, take two. We set off. I do not know why, but I made a last minute turn towards the park, rather than the beach, an unusual decision for me as I only ever run with him there. Anyway, there it was, small decision number two.
The earth was sodden and my hair was responding to the damp with some serious frizz. I had a thought that this might not be a good idea, but Blue had already disappeared. I sighed, slammed the car door shut, pushed the thought aside and trudged off after him. He was already rummaging through the undergrowth like a truffling pig. The bush is constantly changing, responding to man’s decisions with new paths over easier terrain while pulling her green blanket over those that are no longer used. Although rarely seen, there is a group of volunteers that maintain the tracks and I am constantly grateful for their work. They help nature by shoring up her banks, provide drainage, set traps and smack back any adolescent tendrils. When I run I always use these easy tracks, today though, I was walking and took the time to stop and read one of their signs.
EASY ROUTE ⇑ VIA GULLY⇒
I had not been through the gully for at least a year, favouring the easy ‘maintained’ route. The dog had assumed I would do the same as normal and so continued his snuffling without looking up. Small decision number three, I took the gully way.
My rubber ‘inside kitchen’ shoes are designed to protect my feet from sharp knives and boiling liquids. They have no idea how to deal with thick oozing mud and slippery bush debris. I was picking my way down a steep gully that nature was reclaiming, with evil wood roots, slime and undergrowth. I grabbed a branch to steady myself. The branch was well-used, its rough bark had been worn smooth with many such grabs for help. It decided, at that moment, to retire from its steadying job and with a loud thwack, it broke. I continued forward, slipping and sliding like a mental wizard casting spells that began with F and S, staff held high. It went quickly. I ended up sort of clinging to the side of the path, with the gully falling away beneath me. I took a moment to assess the situation. I felt stupid, but no one had seen and there was no serious damage. Unbelievably I was still holding the stick and my car keys. I took a deep breath and started to climb back onto the path. It was no drama, just a small 6ft fall and I would be on my hands and knees on the path with the next push.
There was a rustling up ahead. Blue who had reached the point where the two paths met further on, had come to the conclusion in his doggy mind, that we were playing hide and seek. He came running in the reverse direction along the gully route, panting “coming to find you!”. He was not prepared for my misfortune and took the bend like a greyhound. He saw the stick and me crouching down. “Noooooooooooooooo Blue stop!!”, was all I could manage. Our eyes locked, I tried to relax.
We both ended up at the bottom of the gully. It was shocking, wet, leafy and very very muddy. For a while there, we both struggled to get out in an upward direction but the yellow clay was having none of it. I gave up and waded through the undergrowth until I found a more dignified way out. The dog had long since disappeared.
I broke out of the bush, to a path that skirts the whole park. Beautiful houses sit on the other side. I looked like I was last and lost from an army assault course. By now I was feeling sorry for myself and a little tearful, torn and bloodied. The plan was to walk along the path back to the car and if anyone came towards me I would duck back into the bush. On reflection, if I had met anyone, they would not have recognised me, my camouflage was so good. I was squishing my way along nicely when I heard a commotion coming from one of the houses to my right. I could see up ahead a couple of young men smoking. One was mildly amused, another was jumping around and the third was issuing instructions. I did not recognise the language. As I got closer, I could see they were builders, presumably on a break. I put my head down and tried to squelch as quietly as possible past them. As I drew level with them, all the young men stopped and looked at me. One of the smokers tried to attract my attention. I dug my chin into my chest and continued walking. Then the one who had been jumping about a lot called out. The only word I could make out was “dog”. I snapped my head up and with horror could just see, through the brand new glass, the top of Blue’s head, nostrils flared, as he swam around in the new swimming pool, like an otter. I shouted back that I did not understand, turned into the ferns and whistled like I have never whistled for that dog before. I waited in the undergrowth once more. Refreshed by his laps in the pool, Blue returned thinking that the day had taken a turn for the better. He was sure that was the biscuit whistle. I looked into his chocolate eyes and considered. He stared back and sensing there was no treat to be had, raced off.
Conscience won out and I went back to the men. We sort of pantomimed a bit and I think they found it funny, rather than criminal. They did not want my number, maybe I looked like a hunter serial killer and they were scared of the crazy, with her swimming wolf. They waved me along with smiles.
I made it to where I had left the car. As it came into view, I pointed the fob and pushed. No response. A new shiny black car pulled up behind my dirty silver one. I pointed and pushed – again nothing. Then, like a cowboy trying to shoot the baddy with an empty chamber, I continued to pace forward pointing and pushing, arm straight out. The car would not open. I looked down at the mud-caked key fob. A beautifully dressed gentleman got out of the shiny black car and opened his boot. There was a black curly haired Labrador, perched on a fluffy cream cushion, sitting in an immaculately clean boot. I glared at Blue, who felt my intensity and sat down next to me. I thought about putting him on the lead but instead chose to answer the question the gentleman had asked, “good walk?”. Final small, yet fatal, decision.
Obviously, he was being polite. I looked like a swamp thing. Actually “no” I admitted, “it’s all been a bit muddy”, I heard myself saying, “and now I can’t open my car”. I held out my key fob and he saw the mud and made a sad face. “Hold on, I have some tissues”. He ducked back into his car and for no reason that I can think of, Blue decided to jump into the boot with the cream cushion and the black curly haired Labrador. She was shocked and barked for him leave. He was smitten and shook his love all over her and the car. She bared her teeth.
I felt embarrassed, dirty, confused and was apologising maniacally, as I shouted at Blue to get out. The man felt embarrassed, clean, confused and apologised for his dog’s bad manners; he handed me the tissue in silence. I wiped the mud off and managed to open my car, got the dog in and wondered how I was to drive home without getting the car covered in nature. The gracious man and I both agreed that it was out of both our dog’s natures to behave so badly, I crossed my fingers behind my back. I remembered the newspapers that I had rescued earlier, grabbed some popped them on the driver’s seat, hopped in and started the car. As I pulled out of my parking space I lowered the window, leant out and apologised again. The man had decided to take the path rather than the trail walk, due to the mud, he tilted his head in my direction. Assuring me that he was retired and had plenty of time to clean his car, he rubbed the top of his dogs head and waved goodbye. Blue wagged his tail at the black curly haired Labrador who had been looking up at her owner with love. She glared back at us, the corner of her lip lifted ever so slightly. I silently promised her we would never have to meet again, as I drove away a big fat drop of rain hit the windscreen.