Ollie’s New Friend

It was a very bright sunny day here today, and pleasantly warm too. Ollie was keen to get out on his early afternoon walk of course, and was soon sniffing around his favouritie spots over at Beetley Meadows. I took him around a couple of circuits, and he was soon in the river, eager to cool off. A short diversion into the small woodland area didn’t leave him very satisfied, so I headed across to Hoe Rough, as he has come to expect.

Ollie enjoyed the diversion of a few excitable squirrels. They avoided his attentions, rushing up into the tops of the trees to chatter at us, telling him off. But the new sniffing grounds kept him suitably fixated, as he got the scent of something, and rushed ahead of me to follow the trail. After more than an hour of trudging around, I sat on the branch of a fallen tree for a while, enjoying watching the birds fluttering in the branches above. Ollie rolled in the nearby long grass, scratching an itch that was probably more in his imagination.

I got up to complete another circuit of the nature reserve, which took around forty-five minutes, with sniffing stops. Although on his second time round, Ollie was acting as if he had never seen the place before, and studiously marking every bush and overhanging leaf. After more than two hours, I decided to call it an day, and head home. Then I heard some shouting and whistling, about four hundred yards away. I spotted a very chunky Rottweiler dog, off its lead, and wearing a substantial harness around its body. The dog’s owner was a young man, shirtless, and calling anxiously for his dog to return to him.

Now Ollie is a very solid, medium sized dog. But that Rottweiler was well over twice his size, and didn’t appear to be under the control of its owner. So I turned left, away from any potential contact with this unknown canine, and walked around the eastern edge of Hoe Rough, keeping out of its way. After the longer circuitous route, I was rather alarmed to discover that the bigger dog and its owner had arrived near the entrance gate at the same time as us. But at least by now he had his excitable dog on its lead, though he was clearly having some difficulty dealing with its strength.

As we approached, the young man smiled, and assured me that ‘she’ was friendly. He added that she was young, and a little boisterous, but was no danger to Ollie.

My dog was soon up to her, and she was pleased to see him. Mutual sniffs were exchanged, and the large female dog seemed to take a liking to Ollie straight off. As he allowed himself to be sniffed in the most intimate areas, I concluded that her female status was agreeable to him, and as she licked his face, he appeared to be suitably impressed. I spoke to him, declaring that she was his ‘new friend’. The young man smiled, and replied, “See you again”, as he exited the gate.

Ollie gave me a strange look, and I soon realised what I had forgotten.

I hadn’t asked her name.

Ollie’s mini-break

I got back at 4:30 today. I had been on a visit to see my cousin and her family, around a two hour drive south of here, in Essex.

It was quite an eventful weekend, especially for Ollie, and in a special way for me too. We arrived to find out that my cousin had recently acquired another dog to keep Dennis, her King Charles Spaniel dog company. She is an 8 year-old Red King Charles, rescued from a puppy-breeding farm. She was very friendly, and took an immediate liking to Ollie. Fortunately, she had been neutered after years of producing pups, so her flirtations with my dog were unlikely to come to anything. Besides, Libby is only a quarter of his size.

After catching up since my last visit in December 2018, I was delighted when my cousin’s daughter brought baby Violet to see me, and to collect the gifts I had brought for her. Some of you may recall that she was named after my late mother, something that touched me greatly. At just five months, little Violet is alert, has great skills beyond her age, and is developing into a really happy and delightful baby. I had a good long hold of her, and couldn’t help but reflect how much my Mum would have been overjoyed to know she bears her name. Ollie was not troubled with jealousy where she was concerned, as he had his hands full dealing with Libby, and trying to impress a very lethargic Dennis.

After Violet was taken home, we relaxed to enjoy an evening meal in the company of my cousin’s son and his girlfriend, who both live in the house. Ollie was still ‘dancing’ with Libby, and hardly had any rest at all, despite us taking the dogs for a long walk before dinner. Once dinner was over, we chatted and listened to music, and I became sleepy, after a long day. When it was time for bed, Ollie was excited to follow me upstairs, even though his bed had been set up in the living room. As I started to walk up the staircase, he ignored his instructions to stay on his bed downstairs, and decided he would rush up the stairs ahead of me, with no warning.

The first thing I knew was that my dog was between my legs as I lifted my foot onto the next stair. The next thing I was aware of was lying on my back like an upturned turtle, on the hard flooring in the hallway. I had fallen down three stairs into the hallway, landing heavily on my back, unlucky not to get a rebound injury to my skull. Ollie was barking loudly, apparently upset by my fall, so both the Spaniels joined in. Then my cousin came to see what the fuss was about , and her son appeared from the kitchen to help. I was eventually assisted back upstairs, with Ollie in some disgrace, ordered to his bed in the living room. I remember thinking that my back hurt a little bit, and my right hand was painful. Then I went to sleep.

I woke in the early hours, in great pain and discomfort. My back was in agony, and my right hand throbbing as if trapped in a vice. It took me almost fifteen minutes to get out of bed, to be able to use the toilet.  By the time I should have been getting up, I was in agony with my back, and spent a very long time getting ready to be able to go downstairs. There was a large visible wound on my hand too, where I had tried to grab the bannisters, and scuffed my hand on the woodwork instead. After creeping downstairs very gingerly, I was just about able to sit on a hard chair to drink some tea, and eat breakfast.

I felt so sorry for my cousin, as she had planned a day of various activities for us on Saturday, involving the dogs. As well as the inclement weather, my fall had ruled that out. I was just about able to accompany her on a local dog-walk, shuffling behind like a 95 year-old man! The evening was quiet, with me stuck in an armchair, watching as Ollie and Libby continued their fruitless courtship. We had a Chinese take-away meal, and watched a film on TV. I was able to get a few hours sleep, making sure Ollie stayed in the living room, as I walked slowly upstairs. Violet was brought to see me again this morning, which was a delight, and I managed a better walk with the dogs, before leaving Essex for home. My back still hurts, but is manageable, and the drive home was very easy, which was fortunate.

Ollie is back with his familiar surroundings, and favourite toys. No Libby to play with, nor Dennis to impress, but he settled back into his routine as expected.

And of course he has no idea that his desire to beat me upstairs might well have killed me.

A big walk, in better weather.

It would be easy to believe it was midsummer today in Beetley. A bright start was followed by blue skies and warm temperatures. I decided to take Ollie out early, and make the most of the welcome change in the weather.

Being able to wear soft shoes and shorts was a blessed relief from months of boots and heavy coats. And knowing the mud was not going to impede our progress made the prospect of a longer walk something to anticipate. Ollie was excited to see his lead, and my stick, even though it was only midday, so earlier than his accustomed time. He rushed around excitedly, showing so much enthusiasm, you could well believe he had never been outside the house.

Starting out on Beetley Meadows, I was pleased to discover that there was no chill wind to take the edge off the warmth. The buzzing of bees and swarms of smaller insects was proof that it was hot enough to hatch out many of the flying insects that so often plague the riverside. After a few quick rounds of Ollie’s usual sniffing haunts, we headed over to Hoe Rough, encountering dog-walking friends with their Collie, Tippy. Soon after, Ollie was able to play with The Tiny Whippet that likes him so much, before being ambushed by Little Spike, the small Retriever. Little Spike appeared at speed from nowhere, keen to cajole Ollie into a game of chase. But my dog considers himself far too superior to play with the youngster, and stands his ground as the excitable Retriever runs around him barking.

Once the other dogs had departed, I decided to push across to Hoe Common, the weather adding a spring to my step. But before that, Ollie had other ideas, and headed into the small river to cool off, and have a drink. When he was refreshed, we crossed the main road to Holt, and took the path up to the wooded area of Hoe Common. Past there, we walked two quick circuits of the fields bordering the disused railway, before heading along the small lane toward Worthing, a small village close to North Elmham.

As traffic increased closer to the large village of North Elmham, I decided it was not that safe to continue, and turned to retrace our route home. By the time we got back onto Hoe Rough, Ollie was hot and bothered again, so went back into the river for a deeper dip. We didn’t get home until close to 3 pm, having covered around ten circular miles in almost three hours, at a brisk pace without stopping.

Ollie is dozing happily now, dreaming of Little Spike, Tippy, and The Tiny Whippet.

Winston’s Birthday Party

Resplendent in his yellow bandana, local canine celebrity, Winston, arrives to celebrate his 15th birthday.

The dog-walking community of Beetley came together on a dull and foggy afternoon yesterday. We were all keen to attend the party organised by the lovely Michelle, to mark the great age of her popular dog, Winston. Despite being deaf, and having numerous health problems, old Winston had his usual bright eyes, cheerful expression, and lively demeanour. It wasn’t long before more guests began to arrive, including Ollie, who felt the need to leave his mark on the litter bin.

Michelle and her partner had made a huge effort for both dog and human guests, including party favours to take home for all attendees, and enough home-made dog biscuits to feed a pack. There were also two birthday cakes, one of them dog-suitable.

It wasn’t long before some of the party-goers were enjoying themselves in the river.

Rocky the Newfoundland doesn’t get around too well these days, so was happy to lie down on a groundsheet and enjoy his present, consumed in under a minute.

As Winston was helped by Michelle to ‘pant out’ his birthday cake candle, Buddy the French Bulldog was too excited to appreciate the moment, and rushed past to find someone to play with.

The table containing the dog treats was irresistible though, and Mabel the terrier was unable to stop herself jumping up to investigate.

A good time was had by all, and with almost every dog in Beetley attending, along with their owners, it was a great success. By the time I had to leave there were well over twenty canine guests in attendance, and there had been no fights, no bites, and no tantrums. The dogs were well-behaved too! Thanks are due to Michelle and her friends for their effort in organising a great local event. To Steve for sending me the photos taken on his phone, and to the following party guests for their participation.

Arlo and Buddy, the French Bulldogs. Remy the English Bull Terrier, two more Buddys, one a black terrier, the other a retriever. Toby the Jack Russell, Rocky the Newfoundland, Poppy the Lakeland terrier, Lola the Shih-Tzu, Paddy the Collie, Mabel the Terrier, all the Spaniels, including Ellie, who came out of her usual reserved shell for the party. Ollie of course, who dutifully sniffed everyone, and played well with Remy, and all the others I have missed out.

This was the kind of event that reinforces community, in a small village in the English countryside.

Ollie’s embarrassing encounter

I am just back from an earlier than usual walk with Ollie, as I have to go somewhere this afternoon.

In bright sunshine, and unusually warm temperatures, we set out as usual, starting in Beetley Meadows. Ollie was pleased to spot one of his canine pals, the Newfoundland known as ‘Big Rocky’. (There is a smaller Rocky, a Black Labrador) After he jumped around his older pal for a while, we headed off to the wider expanses of Hoe Rough nature reserve, another of Ollie’s favourite sniffing areas.

Despite the pleasant weather, there was nobody else around over there, so we had the place to ourselves for most of the walk. Ollie went to stand in the river for a while, to cool off, and I sat on a fallen tree to cool down too. Wearing heavy boots because of the mud is uncomfortable, when the weather turns so quickly. After another couple of circuits along the pathways, I turned to head for home, with Ollie trotting a fair distance ahead.

In a clearing surrounded by small shrubs, he suddenly stopped, and raised his front leg. This usually indicates he has spotted a pheasant or deer. With the sun strong, I was concerned that he might have found an Adder. That venomous snake could potentially kill a dog, if it bit him. So I quickened my pace, and got my stick ready to see off the basking snake.

Imagine my surprise as I entered the clearing, to be presented with the bare bum-cheeks of a squatting lady aged around sixty, urinating freely onto the grass. Ollie gave me a ‘?’ look, and I quickly turned, to spare her blushes. I retraced my steps, and got back to the main path. As I headed for the gate, I came across the same lady, walking with a female friend. They were studying a map, and looked like they intended to take a serious country walk.

I nodded a greeting as we passed, and Ollie stopped to sniff the air. He turned to me and gave me a “That’s her” look, and the two ladies walked on, oblivious to what my dog and I had seen.

It never ceases to surprise me, what we come across on our walks.

Ollie’s weekend trip

After the painting was finished (for now) inside, it seemed a good idea to get away for a few days. An invitation from one of my oldest friends to visit her in Kent was accepted, and on Friday afternoon, the car was being packed up for a three-night stay. Ollie was curious of course. Bags being packed, car doors open, and items like chargers and toiletries being collected from various rooms. He decided to forego his afternoon nap, and to follow me around instead.

Once he saw me washing his food and water bowls prior to stacking them in the car, he was in no doubt that something was up. Sticking ever closer to my side, he decided to keep wagging his stumpy tail, to let me know he was still around. Every packed bag was sniffed carefully, especially the one containing his food and treats for the weekend ahead. By the time I was dressed and ready to leave, he was looking glum. He no doubt suspected that I was off somewhere, and he was not to be included. But when I lifted his large bed out, to fit it into the back section of the car, he was beside himself with excitement. Not even waiting to be told, he jumped into the back and settled down on the bed. He was happy to have installed himself, even though he had no idea where we were going.

During a drive of just under three hours, he snoozed happily in the back, and it would have been easy to forget he was even there. On arrival he was delighted to see my friend, who he has met on numerous occasions. But he was even more excited to see her stairs. As we have no stairs in our one-level house, he loves to go anywhere where there are stairs to investigate. He will scamper up and down them constantly, like a child on a slide. Once his bed was installed next to her garden door, and a couple of his soft toys appeared, he soon settled down, and showed no concern about being somewhere different.

When it came to taking him for walks, I was restricted to the local park. The town where she lives is very built-up, and has no wide open spaces or small rivers, like the areas that Ollie is used to seeing every day. The trip to the park along busy roads means that Ollie has to stay on his lead. So he makes his amusement by sniffing every new lamp-post, dustbin, street corner, or front garden. Walking a very short distance can take almost thirty minutes, as he discovers new smells and leaves his own mark behind. Once at the park, there are no squirrels or deer to track down, so he has to be content with seeing the occasional dog, or exploring the new place for any other good smells. After a long walk, I found a bench to sit down on, though that unfortunately only gave me a view of the busy main road. Ollie and I watched the streams of traffic for a while, and I wondered what he was thinking.

We didn’t venture too far from the house, using the time to catch up with news, and enjoying a visit from my friend’s extended family. Ollie was pleased to have more visitors who made a fuss of him, and by the time we were set to leave, he had become well-used to the new area, adapting almost immediately. However, once we got back yesterday afternoon, and I took him back to his usual stamping-grounds of Beetley Meadows and Hoe Rough, it was plain to see the joy on his wrinkled chops.

Maybe he enjoyed the change of scene, maybe not.

But I suspect he could take it or leave it.

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…