Some time ago I was given a fitness tracker as a present. As you may know, this little wrist strap tracker counts your daily steps and records them in an app, also providing information on your calorific intake, your water consumption and your sleeping pattern. The latter initially interested me so greatly that the first thing I did in the morning was to check how often I had awakened or at least stirred during the night. This, despite knowing by a simple look in the mirror, I could determine whether I was or was not rested; often the bags under my eyes are also carrying baggage. Initial excitement of a new gadget sated, I tend now to use my Fitbit to simply make sure I am walking the recommended 10,000 steps per day and usually I am double this amount with the necessary twice a day dog walks. These take place come heavy rain, come little shine and more often at this time, come slippery ice. I love my dogs but there are times I wish I could ignore the pleading eyes and, in Lord Eduardo’s case, the pitiful cry, and just stay home and dry. This morning’s walk proved a lesson in frustration, again, with Lord E. fine until I realised I had dropped my hat and had to retrace my path. He doesn’t like changes in the pattern and as soon as I found my hat, he refused to walk back the quickest way to our car and so we had to re trace the ¾ walk that we’d already done, in the rain, through the mud. When we eventually arrived back at the car, he duly jumped sprightly into the car boot, turned towards me, glowered and gave a disgruntled sigh; in his mind, it’s always my fault and he is the master of delivering a withering look. I, for my part, remain convinced that he is a little on the autistic spectrum. Countless appointments at the vet’s have provided no answers as the vet sighs “I really wish you could talk and tell us what you are feeling.” Well, I have asked him myself, in the quiet of our home but he remains tight lipped and aloof. At least the walks provide me with the amount of steps which makes the weekly progress report sent by email a pleasure to receive. If I didn’t have dogs I would be less inclined to go for country walks but sometimes the stress of having a dog that refuses to walk can outweigh any health benefits.
One Saturday I parked in the bell mouth of a forest road about a mile from my home. Lord E happily leaped out of the car accompanied by Sgt McSnuffles and raced through a gap beside the gate towards the doggie heavenly smelling fields. My usual walk here involves passing through one of the tunnels, cut into the mass of trees by the foresters and Lord E seemed happy to follow. The path is cut wide enough for perhaps two people to walk side by side but it is dark and damp, with the trees either side so dense that no light from the sky can peak through. I always feel a little disconcerted walking through here, my overactive imagination keeps me alert for hidden figures of axe murderers waiting quietly behind the tree trunks. In truth, were I to meet someone whilst in here, I would scream uncontrollably but even if I did, it would only be one of my neighbours and they are not scary, mostly.
We reach the exit point and both dogs quietly sit awaiting the appearance of their throw balls from my bag. I duly throw each of them one, as Lord E never drops his to share; once he has a ball, no-one may get it back until he drops it in the car on the journey home. So, all happy barks, I turn right and call to the dogs to follow. One of them does…but looking behind me Lord E has decided that he doesn’t want to go the usual way. I sigh, try putting him on his lead but he refuses to budge. I remove the lead and walk on some distance with Sgt.McS but I already know from experience that this will not help; I have countless photos of one dog in the foreground and one hidden by the landscape, several 100m away. No, today we cannot go our usual path, Lord E has decreed. I sigh and stomp back to him, deciding we will have to go back through the tunnel but, here’s the thing. Lord E will walk one way through the tunnel but not the other way. I have come to this place from a different path before but he point blank refuses to walk through the tunnel that way;” no, I refuse to do that,” he’ll say. “Okay,” I say to him,”you don’t want to go this way, you won’t go that way, which way would you like to go?” He turns and moves away from both directions and heads off to the right, towards another area of forestry. I sigh, this will take us back to another start point for one of our usual walks, it is not ideal as my car is parked the other way, but we can walk back to it along the road and it is a lovely Saturday so the extra mileage will not be a problem time wise and my step count will be impressive. We continue the walk with Sgt McS dropping his ball, me throwing it and both dogs racing for it; if Lord E reaches it first, he spits out his and grabs the other one, simply because he can.
I clamber up a small track through the bracken and reach the trees and we continue a steep incline over a grassy path to the proper dirt track of this part of the forest. We walk down towards the gate of this bell mouth. It is familiar to both dogs as this is where I sometimes park but today of course my car is not there. Lord E tentatively walks towards the parking area and turns to ask “where is the car?” I reply that it is parked elsewhere silly, but Lord E sits down stubbornly and glares at me. His refusal to move continues as I put on his lead and try to coerce him into moving forward. It doesn’t work and his growl when I try to carry him assures me he is really not happy. At this point my car and my home are equidistant albeit in different directions from this very point and I have a tough decision to make. Should I walk home hoping someone can run me back to pick him up and retrieve my car OR should I walk to my car and return to collect him? My phone has no signal here and I reluctantly realise, either way, I will have to leave him. I know that I can clip his lead safely round a sapling tree well away from the road and he’ll be safe so long as I hurry back. I feel ill with worry but I can see no alternative and I set out with Sgt. McS to head back to my car.
We half run, half walk quickly on the road (uphill of course as I am surrounded by hills!) By now I am heavily sweating; partly with worry, partly with age and fitness. One red faced woman and one panting dog eventually reach my car and with S McS in, we head back to Lord E. I park, wobbily clamber out and shout comforting phrases to Lord E that I am here and coming to get him and as I approach I see his forlorn face. He stands up and wags his tail and I feel so glad to see him safe that I forgive the swift snapping up of his dropped ball; “I am pleased to see you, but not enough to let you have my ball.” I am exhausted and frankly in need of a shower, as we all return to the house. The ping on entry to our wifi network alerts me that I have a new email and, wellies pulled off, I glance to read it.
Email reads; “Your Fitbit battery is dead. Please charge your battery as soon as possible.”