This Dog-walking Lark
If I’d known it would stop Rory from dragging me along, I’d have thrown myself on the ground a long time ago...
open the front door and before I can brace myself, I take off, my toe catching on the door frame and propelling me outwards, all this accompanied by a great deal of screeching and yelping (not me).
The ground rushes up to welcome me and I hit it with a muted whoomph, knocking the air out of my lungs, scraping my chin on the path and grazing my elbows and knees.
But through it all, I manage to hang on to Rory’s lead. He actually stops pulling for a moment and gives me a sniff. If I’d realised it was this easy to stop him dragging me, I’d have thrown myself on the ground a long time ago.
I should go back inside and clean myself up, but I don’t fancy my chances of getting Rory to come with me.
Once he decides I’m not dead, he resumes his pulling. He does everything at warp speed, which makes getting up difficult, but I manage and we whizz down the road.
He decides it’s not enough just to drag me, he has to make a noise, too, yelping with each breath and the closer we get to the fields, the louder he gets.
IThere’s a woman on the other side of the road with a hefty mastiff trotting along at her side, his lead slack. They both look over at us in amazement.
‘You should train him to walk to heel,’ she calls out. ‘Your walk would be…’ But I don’t hear the rest; we’re too far away.
A man coming towards me steps to one side, clicking his fingers at his spaniel to do the same. The spaniel obeys instantly. ‘Disgraceful,’ he mutters as I speed past.
I can hear one persistent voice behind me, trying to get my attention
It is, I’m afraid, the story of my life – or what my life has become since I adopted Rory. I really don’t like this dogwalking lark any more.
He’s not huge, only slightly bigger than the obedient spaniel, which makes it worse.
‘Have you tried giving him treats to slow him down?’ a lady says. ‘He’d be happier if you trained him.’
I have. He spits them straight out again.
I pass the bungalows and see faces looking out at us. I can just imagine what they’re thinking: the same as everyone else – that we’re a noisy nuisance.
‘You should use a head collar on that dog,’ another dog walker with a huge black hairy dog tells me as she passes by. ‘He sounds so tortured, poor thing.’
I have. He cut his face trying to get it off by scraping his head along the ground.
You name it, I’ve tried it. Even the dog trainer I consulted had to concede defeat in the end.
‘Some dogs are just going to pull no matter what,’ he said.
I’m still flying along, trying to ignore the dirty looks and comments and I can hear one persistent voice behind me, trying to get my attention.
I go faster, which Rory thinks is great. He’s practically flat on the ground now with all the effort he’s putting in to dragging me. We reach the field and I say, ‘Wait!’ Rory stops dead and sits down. He’s still making tiny noises, but he’s holding back. I unclip his lead from his collar and say, ‘Go!’ Not that it’s necessary. He’s halfway across the field shrieking his head off with joy before that two-letter word is finished.
I don’t believe it. The man who’d been calling out to me has followed me all the way. He’s trotting towards me.
‘Excuse me,’ he says and I prepare to deliver an earful of how I’ve had it up to here with advice and hilarious comments when he says, ‘You’re bleeding. It’s dripping off your elbow. I was visiting my dad when I heard… saw you go past.’
‘Oh, I didn’t realise.’
‘I grabbed my first-aid kit from my car.’ He waves a red plastic box in the air. ‘I can patch you up until you get home.’
Rory is hurtling round the field chasing birds.
‘That’s very kind, thank you, but there’s no need.’
‘I might as well,’ he says with a grin as he flips the box open. ‘My dad was telling me it makes his day when you walk past his bungalow with your dog.’
‘He says he’s never seen such a happy looking dog.’
‘Happy? Not tortured?’ He laughs. ‘He’s just superkeen. He’ll calm down eventually. I’m David, by the way.’
He tends to my elbows with antiseptic wipes and plasters.
Rory sees I’m talking to someone from the other side of the field and hurtles towards us. He might be young, but he moves like a hairy bullet.
‘Whatever you do,’ I say. ‘Don’t move!’
We brace ourselves, but Rory swerves round us. You can almost hear the screech of brakes as he turns and comes back, sniffing David’s legs, his tail a blur of wagging.
‘He’s a great dog,’ David says as he makes a fuss of him.
‘Do you mind if I join you for a while? I miss having a dog since I lost Arthur.’
For ages I’ve felt like a pariah in dog-walking circles, but look at him. David’s right, he’s great.
‘I don’t mind at all,’ I say, smiling. I think I’m going to enjoy this dog-walking lark, after all.