Walking In The Wind

Not for the first time on this blog, I am writing about dog-walking in high winds. According to the weather reports, we have had wind speeds of 50-60 mph here today. Listening to that wind battering the house, I would have thought those numbers might be higher. But at least as the speed increased, the rain-clouds were blown away.

Leaves missed in last year’s clear-up have discovered new life. They are blowing around like small tornadoes, filling any corner or gap they can find, and rustling like a natural musical instrument as they circle. Tree branches small and large are clattering onto the flat roofs and paved areas, and even the tight hedges are creaking and bending in the gusts.The high chimney that serves the wood-burner is making ominous ‘clicking’ sounds, as it resists, and all TV channels are constantly interrupted when the outside aerial gets the full force.

But Ollie still has to go out. So, on with my biggest coat, fake-fur collar turned up against the blow. At least there is no need to struggle with an umbrella today, and probably no point in trying anyway. Closing the side gate as we leave, it feels as if some giant hand is trying to stop me puling it shut. As I watch wheelie-bins rolling around opposite the house, I am not excited by the prospect of two hours or more outside. But birthday or not, it must be done. And Ollie is oblivious to weather, whatever the conditions.

Over at Beetley Meadows, the wind hit my chest like a well-placed punch from an experienced boxer. As I struggled with my gloves after taking off Ollie’s lead, he scampered off as if it was just a mild Spring day. I could hear twigs falling through the branches, and some ominous creaking of the thinner trees, as their roots struggled to combat the force of the gales. But like anything, you get used to it. After forty minutes, I headed off over to the wilder expanses of Hoe Rough, where Ollie is always extra keen to go exploring. On the main path, the strength of the gusts was enough to make breathing difficult, so I diverted to the sides, closer to the river.

After two hours, I considered my duty done, and I decided to head for home. As I walked back with Ollie, I had time to reflect on the timeless power of nature.

And how insignificant we are, in the face of that.

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.

beetleypete

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 and the White-Tailed Deer

It was bright and cold yesterday afternoon, with snow forecast for later. So I took Ollie out a little earlier, hoping to avoid any bad weather. Deciding on a longer walk, I headed off to the woods around the Village Hall. I know there will be squirrels there, lots of them, so Ollie will be able to chase them to his heart’s content. Sure enough, the place was full of the greys, and they nonchalantly scampered up trees just before my excited dog got too close.

Out on the playing fields by the hall, he got to run around with a young black Labrador for a while, and I was pleased to see his enthusiasm for play, albeit briefly. But he was soon heading back for the woodland, and the prospect of more fluffy-tailed squirrels to chase. They were there again, probably the same ones. After more of the same fruitless chasing, he was getting hot and bothered. As there is no water near that area, I decided to return to Beetley Meadows, and let him cool off in the river. I took the short cut through the wooded path leading from Green Lane.

Halfway down, I spotted a large deer moving around in the bushes, surprisingly close to the main path. It was well-camouflaged, but I heard it rustling in the bracken, and soon spotted it. Ollie came trotting along, and I noticed that he seemed to have no idea the deer was there. No doubt the animal had cleverly positioned itself not to give off a scent, as Ollie can usually smell them a long way off. But as Ollie drew level with me, the deer unwisely flicked its hairy white tail, and that was it.

Having spotted the bright white movement in the green and brown undergrowth, Ollie was off like a bullet. No amount of calling or whistling from me was about to make him give up the chase. The deer was remarkably nonchalant. Bouncing away, apparently unconcerned, it shot me a farewell glance, and carried on in the direction of the fenced-off private land less than 100 feet away. It cleared the fence as if it wasn’t even there, leaving Ollie to apply the canine equivalent of an emergency stop, in case he went straight into the stout woodwork. Having lost sight of his quarry, he started to trot up and down the length of the fence, sniffing intently. It took some time for him to give up.

The sudden appearance of the familiar Golden Retriever, Buddy, gave him something else to think about. I took him down to the river, where he walked in to cool off, and enjoy a long drink.

I was left wondering why nature gave Fallow Deer that white tail. Without it, they would be almost undetectable.