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...

Woman's Weekly (UK) - - Contents -

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.’

‘It does?’

‘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.


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