Ollie And The Feral Cat

Some years ago, a person here told me about some feral cats living in Beetley. I never encountered one, and thought he was probably teasing me, regarding me as a ‘City Boy’ who had moved to the countryside.

Yesterday was very humid, and after Ollie had taken two dips in the river to cool down, I headed over to Hoe Rough as usual, hoping to make a longer walk of it in dry weather. Ten minutes in, and along the narrow riverside path on the north side, I spotted a cat a couple of hundred yards ahead. It looked scruffy, had no collar, and seemed to be in need of a meal, it was so thin and ragged. It was also a strange colour, with black and tan markings resembling some kind of spotted fur, like a wildcat.

(We don’t have wildcats in England any longer)

When it saw me, it arched its back, like they do in cartoons. But then it noticed Ollie following, and it turned and ran off. Ollie saw the movement, and took off after it at lightning speed. Despite his age, my dog cleared the distance in a remarkably short time, and for a moment I thought he might catch the cat.

Luckily for the feline, there are plenty of trees around there, and it had scooted up one before Ollie was close enough to grab it.

Following at some distance, I could hear Ollie whooping and yelping, sounding like a real hunting dog. When I caught up, I found him at the base of the tree, and up in the top branches was the cat, staring down at us.

Reluctant to leave the tree and the cat seeking sanctuary in it, Ollie eventually followed me along the path. He got as far as the bend in the river before creeping under the wire of the fence and plunging in for a much-needed drink.

At least the cat had made him remember once again that he was one of nature’s hunting predators.

A Walk In The Sun

No, not a review of the 1945 war film starring Richard Conte and Dana Andrews.

This is a dog-walk in Beetley, in 2021.

After the wettest May since records began, it finally stopped raining yesterday. It stayed overcast and uncomfortably humid though, and I took my umbrella on the walk, conscious of the threatening skies.

But today, we finally woke up to bright sushine, and by 1 pm the temperature was approaching 20 C. (68F)

After weeks of miserable weather, cold mornings, and chilly evenings, it felt rather exotic to see blue skies and feel some real heat in the air.

I could finally ditch the Wellington boots, get my shorts back on, and head out with Ollie wearing some comfortable lightweight shoes. I had almost forgotten what it felt like to feel the heat of the sun after just fifteen minutes of walking. Ollie had too, and he was straight into the river to cool down, the first of three lengthy dips he enjoyed this afternoon.

Over on Hoe Rough, the muddy paths were already drying out, and as long as I kept away from the boggy areas in the shade, the ground was firm enough for brisk walking. Ollie slipped under the fence and down the riverbank for his second time in the water, standing watching children playing in the river by the picnic tables, including a few who had brought along an inflatable boat.

After two full circuits over there, we headed back to Beetley Meadows to complete the walk in the woodland area. But Ollie diverted into the river once again, obviously still feeling the heat. By the time we had been through the woods and he had checked out some deer tracks, he was ready for home, and a big chicken dinner.

A Woodland Burial

Waliking around with Ollie yesterday, we managed to avoid the rain that had been hammering down all morning, and which started again just as we got home.

I gave him a good walk; twice around Beetley Meadows, then two full circuits of Hoe Rough.

When we got back across the river, Ollie wanted to go into the small woodland area, so I opened the kiissing gate for him and followed. After all the rain, the trees were dripping water, and it felt humid and uncomfortable in there. Ollie had the scent of a deer that has been living in there, so he scampered off, nose to the ground.

When I caught up with him on the small back path, I saw him sniffing something intently. On inspection, I discovered a tiny field mouse, dead in the middle of the path. It appeared to have no injuries, and I guessed it had died very recently, as its colouring was still perfect, it wasn’t wet, and the body still soft as I turned it over with a stick.

It didn’t seem right to leave it on the path, so I dug a small hole at the side with a stick. It didn’t have to be very deep of course, and I flicked in some leaf litter to line the little trench. Then I rolled the dead mouse into it, and laid it to rest by covering it with more leaves, and a few stones.

When I had finished, I looked up and saw Ollie looking at me with a look of complete puzzlement.

But it had seemed to me to be the right thing to do.

Ollie Gets A Nip

Earlier today, the dog-walk was so miserable and wet, we hadn’t see a soul. Ollie was saturated, I was damp and fed up. Umbrella up, I was trudging alongside the riverbank, head down and avoiding the slight flooding coming over the bank onto the path.

Rounding a corner, I heard a dog barking loudly, and recognised Teddy the Alsatian, who always barks at Ollie because he wants him to play. Teddy’s lady owner also had her other dog, a very elderly black labrador bitch. That dog is not at all friendly, and has to be kept on her lead.

However, Ollie is obsessed with sniffing her, so I decided to put his lead on to stop him going over to her. But before I could do that, he had run behind the owner, and started to sniff the poor dog. She immediately showed her teeth, and Teddy started barking in a protective manner. I shouted at Ollie to come back to me, but the lure of sniffing the Labrador caused him to defy me.

Seconds later, she snapped at Ollie’s face as he attempted yet another ‘intimate’ sniff. The lady owner was very upset, and showed me that Ollie was cut under his eye, about an inch long. It looked a bit like a ‘Boxing injury’, and was bleeding slightly. The owner offered to pay any Vet’s bill, but I reassured her that it was all Ollie’s fault, and I would look at the eye later when I got in out of the torrential rain.

Fortunately, Ollie did not retaliate. He never does.

Home in the dry, we could see the cut under his eye. But it’s not bothering him, and so we left well enough alone. He has to go to the Vet on Tuesday anyway, for something else. I will get it checked then.

Once again, Ollie’s obsession with sniffing other dogs left him with an injury.

He never learns. 🙂

Ollie: An Eventful Walk

For the last few days, Ollie has not had much fun on his walks. Many of his regular doggy pals have been notable by their absence, and the few dogs he did encounter didn’t seem to like him that much, including one tiny terrier who attacked him on sight.

The day before yesterday we got a real soaking in unexpected rain, and yesterday we only saw one other dog, in more than two hours of walking around.

Today was sunny to start, with ‘showers’ supposed to arrive after 3 pm. So I set off a bit earlier, and it proved to be a good plan. Ollie soon met up with a couple of friendly Spaniels he knows, and the new arrival of a small white Staffordshire Bull Terrier proved to be a friendly encounter too.

Over on Hoe Rough, there seemed to be no dog-walkers today. But halfway round the right hand path, Ollie spotted a white-tailed deer crossing the path up ahead, and took off in hunting mode. No chance of catching it of course, but until it went to ground in a dense thicket of shrubs, he had a good chase.

Then he decided to track the animals route, nose to the ground, sniffing like a Bloodhound.

He was excited enough to need a long dip in the river before we started on the return journey to Beetley Meadows. Once back over the bridge, Ollie was delighted to see little Lola, the affectionate Shih Tzu. And she was in the company of Zen, the feisty miniature Chihuahua.

The three of them had a good meet, with strokes and cuddles all round, and lots of sniffing and running in small circles.

By the time we got home, Ollie was ready for his dinner, and he is now sleeping soundly next to me, after his eventful walk.

“Dry In The South Today And All Weekend But Rain On Monday”

Yes, that’s what the weather lady said, as she stood in front of a map of Britain with everything south of Scotland showing a cloud-free sky.

Monday is a public holiday in England, so a forecast of heavy rain all day on a holiday is no surpise to anyone English. Still, I should have known better than to stupidly accept her optimistic forecast for south-east England at 1pm today.

Ready to walk Ollie, I wore shorts, a light fleece jacket, and took my dog-walking stick in preference to an umbrella. Leaving the house in reasonably bright sunshine, I could feel the nip of the east wind on my face.

Walking quickly soon made me forget that cold wind, and I covered the area of Beetley Meadows in good time. Once Ollie had marked almost every twig and shrub, I headed across to Hoe Rough, to make a longer walk of it. At the far end of the nature reserve, well past the point of no return, that moment when it takes longer to get home than I had already travelled, there were a few raindrops dropping onto my coat.

The skies darkened, as if someone had switched out the lights, and the chilly wind doubled in intensity. Then the heavens opened, soaking me and Ollie in minutes. My coat collar was damp and uncomfortable on my neck, and my unsuitable casual shoes were soon allowing my bare feet inside to get wet. What sparse hair I have left was slicked down onto my head, and the rain was running down into my eyes.

I headed for home, cursing the smug weather lady who must not have a single clue how to do her job.

Walking back in the continuing rain, I thought -not for the first time- what life would be like if everyone was as bad at their jobs as weather forecasters. Imagine a teacher who couldn’t read, or a policeman too scared to arrest a criminal. A chef with no sense of taste, or a fireman who is afraid of flames.

I could go on with a very long list, including things like a tone-deaf orchestra conductor. But you get the idea.

Weather forcasters are fakes. The snake-oil salesmen of the television age. High time they were all sacked.

Old Man Walking

As I set off with Ollie yesterday, I walked past two young mums pushing toddlers on the swings in the small playground. I had seen one of them before, and politely nodded to her as I went by.

The other young woman turned and asked her “Do you know him?”

The first one shook her head, replying “No, but he’s always here whenever I bring Chloe to the swings. I see him walking here all the time. I just think of him as the old man walking”.

This was all said less than twenty feet fom me. I presume they thought my craggy face and sparse silver hair also affected my hearing.

As I went through the gate of Hoe Rough, I was smiling. Their exchange had made me think of the film ‘Dead Man Walking’. In the film, a prisoner on death row is preceded by a prison guard as he moves around. The guard calls out “Dead man walking! Dead man walking here!” https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0112818/

Perhaps I should employ someone to walk ahead of me?

He could call out “Old man walking! Old man walking here!” 🙂

New Arrivals: Rusty

Last December, I mentioned Rusty, a puppy that had arrived on the dog-walking scene. Full of youthful exuberance, he is always excited to see Ollie, and beside himself with the desire to play. Unfortunately, Ollie considers himself above such childish behaviour now, so Rusty has to make do with pretending to play, while Ollie stands still and gives him an occasional warning growl.

Rusty is older now of course, though not that much bigger. He enjoyed himself in the snow when it was here.

He recently had his first trip to the groomer, and his super-soft fur is looking in top condition.

I am hoping that Ollie will soon decide that Rusty is in his gang, and one of his new best friends. But I’m not holding my breath. 🙂

Ollie And The Okapi

Today has been a dismal day indeed. Rain had started during the night, and by morning was being driven by strong, gusty winds.

As it got close to the time to take Ollie for his walk, I really wasn’t in the mood for dressing up in a long parka and rubber boots. But Ollie has to go out, so I just had to do it. I took my umbrella too, as the rain was coming down at an angle, straight into my face.

Ten minutes on Beetley Meadows saw me struggling to hold on to my umbrella, having to use both hands to stop it being blown from my grasp. So I folded it, and carried it instead.

Twelve hours of rain had refreshed the mud, which was slick and greasy underfoot. For a large part of the regular walk, it was all I could do to keep upright. There was nobody else around. No solo walkers, and no dog-walkers either. Those fair-weather locals had sensibly decided to stay inside, warm and dry.

After three difficult circuits, Ollie was looking decidedly fed up. I knew it was up to me to think of something to make his lonely walk more enjoyable, as he had no other dogs to greet and sniff. So I headed into the woodland area, deciding to invent a ‘hunt’ for him.

I attracted his attention with my usual whispered cry of “What’s that? What’s in there?” Indicating a thick area of almost impenetrable undergrowth. He looked round at me, excited, waiting for the word to go.

Of all the creatures in the animal kingdom that I could have suggested he go and hunt, the memory banks in my brain came up with “Find the Okapi”, and off he went.

That left me standing there wondering why I had thought of a strange animal related to the Giraffe, that lives in The Congo, and I had only ever seen in a zoo.

Luckily, Ollie doesn’t know what an Okapi is, or where it is usually found in the wild. So for a few minutes, it gave him the necessary distraction.

On the way back later, he spotted a saturated squirrel rummaging in some leaves, and chased it up a nearby tree.

In the absence of an Okapi, that was good enough.

Ollie Treads Carefully

The snow we had earlier this week has not melted. It is still here, despite strong sunshine in the mornings, and the weatherman’s promise of a thaw.

Now the constant sub-zero temperatures have done their job, and it is frozen. This is a serious issue on pavements, and the well-trodden paths on the dog-walking route. There is solid ice on those, two to three inches deep, and difficult to walk on. Bad enough for me in my rubber-soled walking boots, but for Ollie it is incredibly hard for him to keep his footing on his small pads.

His legs splay apart, like Bambi in the Disney film, and he hesitates as he tries to find dry spots to place his feet into. Where it is really bad, he stands still and looks at me, only continuing when I walk away from him.

Over on Hoe Rough earlier, the snow had combined with the mud, freezing into what looks like a miniature mountain range. Walking on that presents new problems, as there is the danger of sinking deep into the areas that have not completely frozen. And the small solid ‘peaks’ are slippery enough to sprain an ankle, if you are not careful.

Ollie chose to avoid the paths completely, and walk in the deep snow instead. I was reluctant to follow him through that. It makes walking harder as I sink into the softer snow with every step, and it also conceals the deep pools that are full of water that could easily go over the top of my boots and soak the inside of them.

This all meant that our ninety-minute walk felt more like it had taken over three hours, especially in the bitingly cold wind that was blowing at me, seemingly from every angle.

We were both glad to get back home into the warm today.