Ollie The Tracker Dog

Just lately, Ollie’s tracking and hunting instincts seem to have reached a new peak of efficiency. Out walking yesterday, he suddenly picked up the scent of something, and took off, nose to the ground. In torrential rain and slippery mud, I had trouble catching up with him. But when I finally found him almost ten minutes later, he was standing by a thick clump of brambles, one front paw raised. On my arrival, he set off in circles around the brambles, snuffling at every branch. After some circuits had been completed, he stopped and stretched his neck, sniffing the air intently.

Suddenly, two small fallow deer emerged from the brambles, one was close enough for me to touch, had I not been holding an umbrella.They bounced away to the left, with Ollie in hot pursuit. It took me a while to find him again, and he was once again nose-to-the-ground, making zig-zag movements around Hoe Rough. He was so determined in his smell-tracking, he didn’t even notice me appear behind him. But this time, the deer had got themselves close to a fence bordering private land. So when Ollie finally located them and flushed them out, they escaped easily, by jumping the fence in one leap.

The weather was a little kinder today, and we even had some sunshine, despite a strong cold wind. After walking around for some time, Ollie became very interested in a tree, one in a group of six or so, some way from our usual route. He sniffed around the bark with great precision, returning again and again to one small section. Then he got his nose to the ground, and began to trot off ahead. I suspected that the deer may have returned, and anticipated a repeat of the previous day, trying to keep up with him. I kept him in sight, and stayed on the path as he headed north, on the diagonal. He stopped by the gate through to Holt Road, so I caught up with him quickly.

To my surprise, I found him staring at an elderly man by the gate. The man was wearing walking clothes, and carrying a map case and a walking pole. He seemed embarrassed as I approached, perhaps because I noticed that he was fiddling with the front of his trousers. He nodded at me, muttered a “Good afternoon”, and walked through the gate. A few minutes later, it dawned on me what had caused Ollie to track him in that way. He had probably stopped to pee up a tree, the one that Ollie had been so interested in. No doubt he had some on his shoes as he walked away, and Ollie was sharp enough to detect it. His trouser-fiddling was probably because he realised he hadn’t zipped up properly.

Ollie had done well. So the next time someone goes missing around here…

Ollie and his Rumbling Tummy

As Ollie gets older, he appears to want to eat more. Less satisfied with his usual meal and biscuits, he is constantly on the lookout for extra food, especially in the winter. It is hard not to give in to his plaintive stares, and the high-speed wagging of his stumpy tail. But we resist. He gets plenty to eat, and has maintained the same weight for over five years now. From experience of my Mum overfeeding her many dogs, I know that it just isn’t good for them. But Ollie doesn’t agree of course, and has taken to stalking us whenever we are eating anything.

He knows he is not allowed to come into the dining area when we are sat at the table. But he now gets as close as he feels he can, lying in the small hallway, looking sorry for himself as we eat.

Recently, he has started to get some strange noises in his belly. They sound like anything from a washing machine filling up, to the distant rumbling of an imminent storm. This usually happens first thing in the morning, and it seems to worry him. His tail uncurls, and he seeks attention in the form of strokes and cuddles, trying to look around at his own belly, as it squeaks and groans. We can hear it quite loudly, so with his canine capacity for hearing, it must sound like an express train arriving.

The vet was consulted during a recent annual booster jab, and said it was almost certainly ‘just wind’. As long as he was going to the toilet normally, and eating as well as he is, there should be nothing to get worried about. He asked about his food, and suggested it might be a recent change to organic pellets that was giving him more fibre in his diet. Yet another aspect of our dog getting older, it would seem.

But when Ollie is standing next to me, a sad look on his face, tail down, and those swirling sounds coming from his belly, it makes me feel bad.
I just wish he could understand me when I tell him not to worry.

Seven Today!

Today is Ollie’s seventh birthday. As usual, he was refusing to pose for photos on the walk, even though I took him somewhere nice for a change. After many attempts, this was the best I could get.

(Please enlarge the photos, by clicking on them.)

He was happy to receive two birthday presents this morning. A stuffed toy version of the famous ‘Grumpy Cat’, and a new nylon chew bone to replace his much loved previous one. He was so excited by the gifts, he wore himself out, and slept for the rest of the morning.

I drove him the short distance to Beetley Common, for a change of scene, and he was happy trudging through the mud over there. He spotted some sheep, and probably expected a birthday greeting. But they eyed him suspiciously instead.

Further down, he saw a swan on the fishing lakes. But that was busy grooming, and not at all interested in the birthday boy.

He had to make do with me, and the best part of two hours doing circuits of the Common, woodland, and lakes. And by way of celebrating, he has decided to start moulting heavily, covering everything in dog hair. 🙂

Chicken for his dinner tonight, with some extra birthday treats.

Ollie and The Yellow Cat

Generally, Ollie gets on well with cats. Though in some cases, he is quite scared of them, especially when they spit and growl as he approaches them. A few doors down on the same side, a fluffy black and white cat has taken great objection to him, and will go so far as to advance out of the safety of its driveway, attempting to attack poor Ollie with claws at the ready. Ollie will back away rapidly when faced with this courageous feline, and it has earned itself the name ‘Brave Cat’, a name which Ollie now recognises.

The bulky tortoiseshell cat from the house behind is not so bold. It will lurk under our bushes, hoping to be able to kill any bird that arrives to eat the food we put out. If Ollie spots that one, he goes after it like a rocket, and it scrambles back over the fence, to the safety of its home turf.

In a nearby street called River View, lives a dark brown cat that waits in the bushes in his front garden. If Ollie comes close, it squeezes back into those shrubs, until it is impossible for the curious dog to get close enough to even have a tentative sniff. This cat has been christened ‘Hiding Cat’, and even when it is absent from its spot, Ollie will still carefully check, to see if it is in fact ‘hiding’.

The most frequently encountered cat is the one next door, Alfie. He is normally called ‘Alfredo’ by me, and is very friendly. He also loves Ollie, and will rub his face around my dog’s saggy jowls. Ollie returns the affection by never chasing him, and allowing Alfie to roll about underneath him.

But one local cat brings out the tradition in Ollie. The tradition that states that dogs will chase cats, at every opportunity. A ginger cat that lives close to Beetley Meadows, though I am not sure of his actual address. He likes to spend his days in the scrub grass, close to the River View entrance. From there, the cat will pounce on small birds that fail to spot him, or even rodents that come across his path. The first time we spotted that cat, well over five years ago, Ollie took an instant dislike to it, and rushed into the scrub to chase it. The cat does one of two things, every time. If it sees Ollie coming, it makes a dash for the fence of the closest house on the corner, scrabbling up the wooden panels and dropping down the other side with a crashing sound. Because it is very pale in colour, it has been named Yellow Cat.

But if Ollie gets close enough without being detected by the cat until it is almost too late, it climbs the small tree close to its favoured spot, resting between branches just out of reach of Ollie, who will be standing on two legs, trying to get to it. This happened on our walk yesterday afternoon. I had hardly slipped off Ollie’s lead, when he took off as if fired from a cannon. I spotted his target, Yellow Cat, lurking flat beneath that tree. Ollie covered the gap in record time, and was almost on top of the cat before it realised what was happening. It scampered up the tree, with just a second to spare, then casually draped itself across the branch, leaving Ollie yelping and whimpering with frustration inches below.

After a few minutes of circling the tree, he walked back to me with a grumpy look on his face. I am sure if he could talk, he would have had something to say to that cat.

“One day, Yellow Cat. One day…”

Ollie’s first rabbit

Another post about Ollie ‘hunting’, from 2014. Apologies to those of you who remember it.


When I am out with Ollie, he likes to chase things. Other dogs of course, as well as cats, deer, pigeons, pheasants, and even ducks in the river. Squirrels are a difficult option, as they rush up trees, leaving him frustrated, looking skywards into the branches. On the beach, large seagulls seem to be fair game; but they always fly off as he arrives, only to land tantalisingly, a few feet further on. It always seems to delight him, even though he never catches anything. Watching him do this for almost two years, it always seemed to me, and to other onlookers, that his sole intention was to play with whatever he was chasing. His demeanour was happy, and his body language playful, never threatening.

Over on Beetley Meadows, there are lots of rabbits. On quiet days, or late in the afternoon, they summon up the courage to leave their…

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Ollie: A dog getting older

Ollie will be seven years old soon. Given that his breed rarely lives beyond the age of ten, we have to accept that he is now past middle age, and becoming old, relatively speaking.

There are times when he still remembers what it was like to play. He rushes around with a soft toy in his mouth, or gets excited when anyone calls at the house. But he doesn’t play with other dogs anymore when we are out, and his free-spirited joyous solo running has slowed down to a perky trot.

The shorter two-hour walks of winter seem to suit him well enough too. He is usually ready to go home before 4 pm now, and sometimes heads for one of the exits of his own accord, even when I am still happily trudging around.

There are some grey hairs visible around his jowls now, and he seems to want more to eat, having taken to begging when we have something, which he never did before. When he doesn’t get a morsel, he will return to his food bowl and finish up any remaining dry food. And he is always ready to flop onto his bed at night, as soon as either of us shows any intention of getting ready for bed. In the mornings, he is reluctant to stir, and sometimes has to be told to go out into the garden, especially when it is very cold, or raining.

But the biggest change in him is seen by his constant search for affection, and visible jealousy when I am giving that attention to anyone else. He seeks lots of cuddles now, and will push himself against my legs when I am reading, typing on the blog, or watching TV. He has always followed me around slavishly, but now he gets even closer, and can’t seem to tolerate me being out of sight.

Perhaps he is feeling those changes inside, the differences in energy, and that need for reassurance. It could be that he has noticed that I am also seven years older, and have slowed down too. He may just be following my example, who knows?

But he can be sure that he will continue to be looked after, loved and cared for, no matter how old he gets.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Ollie In Winter.

Well, it’s about my dog, so not unusual that I woke up thinking about my much-loved companion today.

Ollie doesn’t know that it is winter. He doesn’t seem to feel the cold when we go out, and is still happy to plunge into the icy waters of the small river. Mud means nothing to him, except to give his paws something soft to walk on. He doesn’t seem to care that it gets dark earlier, or if he is occasionally soaked by freezing rain, or peppered with hailstones.

The piles of rotting leaves that carpet his walks are sources of more smells, and of no other interest to him besides that. The absence of those leaves on the trees makes it easier for him to spot the squirrels that scamper away as he approaches, and the fact that ‘fair-weather’ dog walkers appear less frequently means that he has to search harder to detect the signs of other dogs.

He is stocky and well-nourished, with a short-haired coat of fur that is nevertheless dense and protective. So he doesn’t shiver, and certainly has no need of one of the coats that adorn so many of the other dogs seen around. I suspect he wonders why they are sporting tartan woolens, or rain-resistant mackintoshes. They are dogs like him, after all. In the absence of human owners, there would be no ‘doggy coats’, and certainly no matching ‘doggy boots’.

The cold weather does seem to make him enjoy his food more, and to look for any extra treats that might be given. He sleeps better when it isn’t so hot, and drinks less too. In the evenings, he settles onto his rug in the living room, happy to not have to search out cool spots to lie on. He relaxes in the warmth of the house, perhaps knowing that the heat will eventually be switched off, and he will soon curl up on his comfy bed for the night.

I have no doubt that he prefers the cooler climes, after September has passed.

And I conclude that, unlike his owner, Ollie is a Winter Dog.