Ollie And The Heatwave

Since Ollie turned nine in February, he has slowed down considerably. But he still likes nothing better than to accompany us anywhere in my car, and is able to jump up onto his bed in the back as if he is still only two years old. So he was delighted when after watching us pack up the car last Thursday, he was called outside to leap into his spot.

The first day in Essex was actually overcast, and not very warm. He was pleased to see my cousin’s two small dogs again, even though having so many people in the house made him rather agitated, perhaps because he worried that he might be left behind.

By the time we arrived in Kent late on Friday afternoon, the weather had started to warm up considerably. We were grateful to be able to eat outside at my friend’s house, but Ollie stayed inside, finding some cool carpet in the shade to lie on.

On Saturday, it was almost 30 degrees (C) and we drove the short distance to a local Country park to give him a good walk. In the absence of a river, I took along his water bowl and a large bottle of water. Ollie was soon slowing down in the heat, so after an hour, we sat under a tree near the cafe there, and Ollie was lying down on the long grass in the shade. Despite drinking lots of water, he couldn’t seem to cool down, and was panting constantly.

The next day, I walked him to the local park near my friend’s house, somwehere he has been many times before. But there was a lot of traffic in that large town, and Ollie kept stopping on the pavement, flinching at the noise as cars and buses drove past close to us. By the time I got to the park, I had to sit in some shade and give him a big drink from his bowl. As he showed no sign of wanting to continue the walk after that, I decided to head back, by which time it was close to 31C there.

He spent the rest of the time lying on the kitchen floor, and when the sun moved around and we sat outside to eat, he ventured out to find any small breeze and the cool decking of her patio. For all three days in Kent, he had seemed grumpy and listless, though I was pleased that he ate all of his food, and had a good appetite.

The drive home on Monday wasn’t too bad, and I decided to stop off at Thetford Forest so that Ollie could get out for a walk, and have a drink. For some reason, he wouldn’t follow me after I parked the car, and kept looking back at it. I had to settle for him having a short drink before getting him back in the car for the one hour drive to Beetley. The next morning, he seemed happier, as the temperature in Norfolk, though still hot, was a full 5C lower than it had been further south. Even so, after fifteen minutes in his preferred area of Beetley Meadows, he ran into the river and stood there for over twenty minutes.

Today was still warm and sunny, but a lot fresher than it has been. Ollie has decided that he must now sniff and mark a lot more places than ever, presumably making up for that ‘lost time’ away. It took me almost thirty minutes to walk less than 400 yards, and I found myself standing waiting for ages until he was ready to catch up.

So at least during this short heatwave, dog-walking now has a new name.

‘Dog-Waiting’.

Meeting Good Friends

Regular readers will know that I often mention my friend, Antony. He sends me interesting video clips, and as an accomplished photographer, he also took the photo on my ‘About’ page. I have known him for a long time, since we both worked as EMTs at the same ambulance station in London, then much later he came to work alongside me for the Police in that city. He still lives there, and still works in the same job.

In 2014, we attended his wedding to Natalie, on the south coast. Then in 2017, Antony and I (with Ollie) had a walking holiday in the Lake District which was later the subject of many photo posts on this blog. But given the distance, we haven’t seen each other since, despite keeping in regular contact by phone and email.

On Thursday, Antony and Natalie were returning from a trip to the north of England, and had arranged to stay the night in Wells-Next-The-Sea. As this is only a short drive from Beetley, we could meet up, enjoy a coastal walk, and then go to a restaurant for dinner. Unfortunately, Julie hurt her back badly on Monday, and was unable to come. Nonetheless, I was delighted to see Antony and Natalie, and we did go for that coastal walk, followed by a very nice meal and a long after-dinner chat.

(I’m on the right, in case you didn’t know who was who.
The photo can be greatly enlarged by clicking on it.)

As they were not leaving Norfolk until almost 2pm on Friday, they suggested meeting at Holkham Hall that morning. With Julie still unable to walk properly, I went with Ollie, and we met in the car park of that impressive house. https://www.holkham.co.uk/

We then had a long walk around the extensive grounds, happy to have more time to catch up on those five years. Although Ollie had to remain on his lead, he seemed to be delighted to explore somewhere he hadn’t been for a long time.

Then it was time to say farewell just after 1:30pm, hoping it will not be another five years until we meet again.

Finding Bailey

It was a wet dog walk today. I wathed the lunchtime weather report, and they said it would be ‘cloudy but dry in the East’. So I knew to take my umbrella. Ten minutes in, and it was raining lightly. By the time I got over to Hoe Rough, the umbrella was failing to cope with torrential rain.

That meant wet shoes, (Skechers for comfort, not waterproof) wet shorts, and wet sleeves on my cotton top. Then there was walking through the tall grass and shrubs, still wet from yesterday, now soaking my legs on top of the rain. To remind me it was summer, the temperature was a humid 21 C (69 F), and Ollie was hot enough that despite being wet from the rain, he still jumped into the river to cool down.

After a couple of miserable rounds of the nature reserve, I headed back to Beetley Meadows, skidding around on the fresh mud. Over there, I saw a lady I know in passing. She usually has two small dogs with her. Today there was only one. She walked up and asked me, “Have you seen a small dog? It’s a little Spaniel called Bailey”. I told her I knew the dog, but hadn’t seen him. She told me her son was out in his car, driving around Beetley hoping to see him on the street.

I asked her where she had last seen Bailey, and she said he had gone into the long grass opposite the gate to the woodland area. That grass is never cut, and is currently very high. It also contains nesting adders, (poisonous snakes) who would likely be hunkered down in the cooler, wet weather. I said I was heading that way, and would look for her dog. By that time, she had been trying to find her dog for almost thirty minutes, and was getting worried.

Standing next to the long grass opposite the gate, I called out “Bailey” and whistled too. Ollie seemed confused, thinking I was whistling him. Seeing the grass moving about twenty-five feet away, I called again and again, until there was definitely more movement. So I told Ollie to stay, ditched the umbrella, and ventured in, finally catching a glimpse of the tiny Spaniel ahead. I patted my legs and called his name again, and he made his way nervously in my direction.

When he was close enough, I stepped forward and slipped Ollie’s lead over the small head. Then I walked him back to where the lady was standing with her other dog.

Little Bailey was soaked through, and looked exhausted. It must have seemed like being trapped in a grass maze, towering well over two feet above him. Perhaps he became disorientated, and headed deeper into the grassed area, rather than back to the path? We will never know for sure why he got lost there.

But at least he was found, safe and sound.

Ollie And The Swans

In 2016, I posted about Ollie’s rather tense encounter with three swans.

Ollie’s Mexican standoff.

Earlier today, something similar happened again.

Although it is 10C cooler today that it was yesterday, (18C instead of 28C) the air is very humid after heavy rain last night, with thunderstorms forecast for later. So after a couple of tours around Beetley Meadows, by the time we got over onto Hoe Rough, Ollie was panting, and ready for a drink and a dip.

He waited until we got to his favourite spot, where he can slide under the wire of the fencing, and slip into the river. There were two swans already there, a large male and smaller female. (Yes, I know they are called a Cob and Pen, but this is easier.) For all I know, they could well be the same pair from 2016, as they have been on the river every year I have lived here, and they do mate for life.

Ollie ignored them, and plopped into the rain-swollen water, which came up to the base of his tail. The large male swan flared out its tail feathers, and the female moved away slightly, protected behind her mate. When Ollie had drunk his fill, and presumably cooled off sufficiently, he decided to turn and investigate the nearby waterfowl. At this, the male swan raised its wings, and the female swam away, making for the safety of the next bend in the river, and deeper water.

With the swan making no noise, but threatening with his strong wings, Ollie continued to move through the water in his direction, breaking into a dog-trot. At that point, I whistled Ollie to come back out onto the bank.

One of them, or both of them, would undoubtedly have been hurt.

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.

Easing Off

Everyone who follows this blog will know that I have been posting a great deal during the past year or more. Three posts most days, four on some, even five on occasion.

Tomorrow, I start publication of a new fiction serial, and other than any exceptional happenings concerning Ollie, or the welcome receipt of a guest post, that will be the only post until it concludes. I am easing off, and will not be posting so much for a while, as I genuinely feel that I have been churning out too much, for too long. That’s a big ask from my readers, and my dear blogging friends.

So if you were wondering, (and why on Earth should you?) that is why there will not be so many posts from me, starting this week.

I hope everyone in England had an enjoyable Spring Bank Holiday, and that everyone in America was able to remember their fallen, on Memorial Day.

The weather here today was glorious, and we took Ollie to Thetford Forest, for a change of scene. That change of scene was mostly for me of course. Ollie would have been much happier to do his usual circuits of Beetley Meadows and Hoe Rough. But he does enjoy a car journey, so forty minutes each way made him feel good to be in ‘his’ car.

Hunting ‘Bambi’

On Sunday’s dog-walk, it was one of those perfect days. A temperature of 21C (70F) made even more pleasant by a gentle easterly breeze, just enough to move the long grass.

With 90% of the area now dry ground, and no need for boots, Ollie and I made a few tours of Beetley Meadows, then twice around Hoe Rough. He only went into the river once to drink, and didn’t seem to be feeling the heat at all.

The whole area was unusually quiet, leading me to suspect that most people had headed to the nearby coastal resorts, or decided to have family time and barbecues in their gardens.

When we got back and started to head for the woodland area, I saw some other dog walkers. A family with a small poodle cross, and a man with a terrier. Then in the middle of the widest path, bold as brass, we all saw a young deer, nibbling happily at something by the edge. It had long, spindly legs and big eyes that made me think of Disney’s Bambi. It surely had no idea about where it was, and showed no fear of me as I approached.

But then all three dogs spotted it, and the hunt was on!

Although the dogs didn’t know each other, pack mentality took over, and they rushed off together barking, yapping, and yelping.

Fortunately for the juvenile deer, instinct kicked in, and it took off bounding gracefully, easily outstripping the three dogs as it jumped the three-bar fence back into the woodland.

We were left with three frustrated and panting dogs, who had participated in a very short and fruitless hunt.

The Beetley Pampas

‘La Pampa is a province in central Argentina, within the vast Pampas grasslands’.

Given the definition above, I might be exaggerating slightly when describing my back lawn. It is an oblong shape, around 50 feet end to end, and perhaps 20 feet across.

Due to the recent rain, it hasn’t had its first cut this year, resulting in alarming growth to almost 18 inches high. Yesterday, it was sunny and warm. Today, I woke up to similar weather. This meant bad news for me.

I had run out of excuses not to cut the grass.

Luckily, I have a large and powerful ‘hover’ mower, that has a grass-collecting box incorporated. Though when the grass is that high, it still takes considerable effort to do the job.

Ollie came out to observe me as usual, making sure to get in the way as much as possible, as that is his job as ‘Assistant Gardener (Canine)’. I was keen to get the job done before the sun moved around to the back of the house after 2 pm, so set-to manfully.

Our lawn is grass as such, though it could hardly be desribed as ‘manicured’. Only about 65% of it is actually grass, a legacy of the previous owner laying a turf lawn of the cheaper ‘Meadow’ variety. That means almost 25% of the ‘grass’ is actually dandelions, and unknown weeds of other varieties. I suppose I could treat it with weedkiller, but I am conscious of Ollie, and I don’t want him getting any nasty chemicals on his paws.

The remaining 10% consists of sticks, thin branches, and acorn shucks, all of which fall from the large Oak tree that overshadows the house at the back. Fortunately, my mower has a thick rotating blade that makes short work of any woody intruders.

Almost two hours later, I have completely filled the composting recycling bin with the cuttings, and tackled my version of the grasslands of South America. Sad to say it left me hot, and with a very aching back.

So the small front lawn and strip at the side of the house is going to have to wait for another day of ‘enthusiasm’.

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.