A Very Strange Dream

I had a disturbing dream last night. It woke me up when it was still dark, and I went back to sleep thinking about it. I was unsure whether or not to post about it today, but after walking round with Ollie for a couple of hours this afternoon, I decided to go ahead.

On the 18th of this month, I read a blog post on a blog I follow. Here’s a link to that.
The Seven Sisters

It was about a trip to the Seven Sisters in Sussex, seven famous chalk cliffs that overlook the coast. It is very common for people to commit suicide there, by jumping from the cliffs. I know that area well, and have been to the same spot many times in the past. I enjoyed reading the text and admiring the photos, left a comment, and thought no more about it.

Until last night.

I was driving along in a motor caravan, with Ollie on the seat next to me at the front. I have never owned a motor caravan, so that in itself is unusual. After parking the vehicle somewhere, I walked across the wide expanse of grass with Ollie running around in front of me, until I got close to the edge of one of the cliffs.The sky was grey, the weather cold, and the sea was turbulent, with waves crashing into the rocks at the base of the cliff.

Something made me inch nearer and nearer to the edge, until I was aware that small pieces of chalky rock were being loosened by my shoes, and falling into the sea below. With the wind in my face, and an uninterrupted view, I was really basking in the full force of nature. Ollie was still standing close, and just behind me.

Then for some reason, it entered my head to jump. Well not really jump, just step off into the void. The appeal of that idea continued to grow, and I started to move one foot forward until it was no longer touching the ground. As I did that, Ollie moved closer to the edge too. I turned and told him to ‘stay’, but it was clear to me that if I stepped off the edge, there was every chance that he would follow me. So I didn’t. I stepped back a few paces, and bent down to stroke Ollie. Concern for my dog had stopped me from doing something irreversible.

And then I woke up.

In the past, I have never really had any suicidal thoughts. I am sure the dream can be explained by having read the blog post, and those dangerous cliffs being on my mind.

But whatever the reason, it seems I can thank Ollie for saving me.

Ollie At The Vet (Again)

Ollie had to go to the Vet again today. That’s why I am late posting my serial episode, (for those of you that noticed) and just running late in general. Any break in my fixed routine makes me feel that I lose the rest of the day trying to catch up.

Anyway, Ollie had to have his annual booster injection, and general health check. In addition, I was worried about a sore eye that was troubling him, and the fact that he just cannot seem to stop shedding hair out of season.

Excited to get in the car, he was less impressed after the 12-mile drive deposited him at the hated Vet. Not that he balks at going in, but once inside he shows obvious signs of distress about what may be about to happen. Luckily, there were lots of other dogs there already, so his attention was distracted. Two Golden Retrievers, a young Rottweiler, a barky Labrador, and a nervous Poodle all gave Ollie the eye as he came in, and there was a great deal of mutual sniffing. Only the trembling Poodle made sure to avoid my dog.

He weighed in at thirty kilograms. This is a one kilo increase on last year, and a two-kilo increase on his weight at the age of two. The Vet checked his heart, looked in his ears, and gave him the booster jab. Then he was examined around the eyes, as I talked about the never-ending moulting of fur. He had to have an ‘indicator solution’ dropped into the bad eye, and after a short delay, the colour change (to green) indicated Conjunctivitis. The issue with the fur was diagnosed as yet another yeast infection on the skin, causing the fur to constantly fall out and re-grow.

The treatment will be seven days of eye drops to clear up the right eye. The Vet agreed that we should avoid yet another dose of oral antibiotics and steroids for the skin, but has suggested weekly baths in the special shampoo for the foreseeable future. That in itself is going to be a mission, getting Olie in and out of our small corner bath, and trying to dry him off. I could take him to the groomer every week, but at £32 a time, that option is too expensive.

As he filled out the report on his computer the Vet also discussed Ollie’s age. He will be 8 years old in February. For a Sharpei, that is the human equivalent of 65 years of age, and is why he is slowing down more each month, and sleeping longer. He casually added, “If he sees double figures, I will be happy, but surprised”. I was shocked, and asked him if that was really true. Might Ollie only live for less than two more years? He shrugged. “The oldest one I have ever seen was ten years old. I have never seen one older than that. Too much in-breeding, I’m afraid.”

I paid the £60 bill, and we left. As I was driving home, I wondered if the Vet’s gloomy prediction could be correct.

Life without Ollie in it just doesn’t seem possible.

Ollie’s Poorly Friends

As any dog-walker will tell you, regular haunts mean meeting lots of other dogs, and their owners. At one time, Ollie enjoyed the company of the same afternoon gang. We could have up to eight dogs in a very happy pack, and they would play together as we chatted walking around Beetley Meadows, or Hoe Rough.

Sadly, some of those dogs have since died, or owners have moved away. Each year, the old canine faces become fewer, and new ones arrive to replace them. But the boisterous new arrivals rarely interest Ollie, and he still scans the paths and fields for a sight of some of his ‘best mates’.

Just lately, we have been hearing some bad news about some of Ollie’s oldest friends and companions. Winston is fifteen now, and has recently suffered a stroke. He can still come out, but only for around ten minutes a day. Big Rocky the Newfoundland has suffered a complete collapse of his back legs. His owners bought a special cart to wheel him around in, as once in the river, he can still swim to his heart’s content. But he can no longer walk without assistance, and wears a harness with handles so that he can be lifted in and out of his cart.

Yesterday, I heard some sad news about Spike, the Rhodesian Ridgeback. He was born in February 2012, the same time as Ollie. For many years, they were firm friends, and used to enjoy the rough and tumble of dominant play. But for some time now, I haven’t seen him around. I spoke to his owner yesterday who informed me that he has a complete deterioration of his spine, and can hardly walk. If he stands still, he falls over. The prognosis is not good, and they are just ‘keeping him comfortable’.

Earlier this year, Buster the Lhasa Apso died unexpectedly from kidney failure. Paddy, the Collie who lives next door, is over fifteen years old. His back legs have crossed-over, and although he can still manage to walk, it is upsetting to see him struggling.

Some of the old gang are still the same. Toby the Jack Russell, as mad for his ball as ever. Poppy the Lakeland Terrier, still lively at ten years old. And a few of the new arrivals are slowly being accepted by Ollie too. Marley the black Labradoodle, and his terrier partner, Duke. Buddy and Walter, the frantic yellow Labradors, and Flossie the young Whippet, who trembles with delight every time she sees him.

Ollie is one of the ‘old guys’ now. Respected, sometimes avoided, but still in charge of his walking grounds.

At least as far as he is concerned.

The Cows Have Gone

A couple of months ago, a herd of cattle was placed on Hoe Rough by a local farmer. This is done in conjunction with the Wildlife Trust, who like the natural way the cattle eat lots of the unwanted scrub grasses. They also churn up the ground, allowing some other plants to seed, presumably.

But for my walks with Ollie, this is bad news. Once the cattle are there, it is not a good idea to wander around with a dog. Not that Ollie would take any notice of them, but they might well be alarmed by his presence. Cows can run at up to 28 m.p.h., and for a long distance. They can outpace almost any human runner, and certainly beat me in a race. If alarmed, they might also trample Ollie, causing him grievous injury.

As cows kill more people than any other animal here in Britain, I keep away from them at all times.

I heard today that the cows had gone. They have presumably been removed to provide succulent joins of beef for the coming Christmas season.

For the first time in weeks, I could take Ollie over to his second-favourite stomping ground. Once through the gate, he was visibly excited, spinning in circles as I took his lead off. And then he was off, ready to sniff anything and everything he hadn’t been able to sniff for so long.

Unfortunately, the recent heavy rains and the presence of the cows had left the side paths deep in sticky mud, some eight inches deep. Even in my new boots, it was hard going, and made the walk more difficult than usual. But Ollie was so happy, I slogged on for a few circuits of the area.

By the time we got back, the sun was setting, and I had a tired dog ready for a nap.

Low-Flying Aircraft

Out on the walk with Ollie yesterday, we were deafened by the sound of low-flying military aircraft.

We are not very far from RAF Marham, and they were obviously practicing ‘war’ with their new F-35 jets.

The sky was very grey on a gloomy day, and although I couldn’t see them, it felt as if the jets were incredibly low.

As we walked into the woodland, they made another pass, engines roaring. Their passage through the air made the tall thin trees quiver, with a sound like rice being shaken in a metal container. Seconds later, we were stood in a massive fall of small leaves, fluttering down around us like multi-coloured snowflakes.

Ollie headed off on a side track, and I followed him, having to bend low to get past branches that he could easily trot under. Moments later, with a sound like an approaching freight train, the jets returned for yet another swoop over Beetley Meadows. Noisier than before, that set all the birds squawking, and squirrels barking too. Seconds later, a Muntjac deer appeared from some bushes. He was only a few feet from us, and seemed to be trying to escape the jets.

When he spotted Ollie, he turned in his own length, and crashed into a thicket of Holly, ignoring the sharp leaves. Ollie yelped, and took off after him.

Ollie’s pursuit flushed out two more, and they ran straight past me, one so close I felt its rump brush my leg. They were followed by my excited dog, who had obviously decided that chasing two at once was more fun that trying to find one that had gone to ground. Those small deer are not much bigger than Ollie, but they are chunky enough to run through the toughest brambles and undergrowth.

Ollie was gone for almost ten minutes, and I stayed where I was, waiting for him to return. Once the three deer had all managed to evade him, he came running up to me, still looking excited. Maybe he thought I was going to find him some more?

But the low-flying aircraft had concluded their mission, so he had to be content with running into the river for a drink.

A Random Memory

Wandering around on a cold bright afternoon with Ollie, it often surprises me what pops into my mind.

Once my Mum was in her eighties, and could hardly see, she often spilled things down her clothes as she was eating. On occasion, I would visit her to find her sitting in a top or dress that was obviously quite badly stained. I would point this out, and offer to find her something to change into from her wardrobe. But every time she was adamant that there was nothing there, that her clothing was not stained, and she was fine as she was.

She didn’t have any loss of mental faculties at that time, so I suspect her reluctance to believe me came from a mixture of embarrassment, and natural stubbornness. One evening, I was due to take her to a restaurant to celebrate some occasion. I arrived to find her wearing a rather fancy black outfit that was quite obviously spattered with stains from what she had been eating the last time she had worn it. I mentioned that she might want to change, as many other people would be there, and might wonder why her top had so many marks on it. She became unreasonably angry, and told me that if I was that bothered, she would stay at home.

I took her as she was, feeling sad that a once elegant and immaculate lady was perfectly happy to be seen in food-stained clothes by an assortment of family and friends.

Not long after this twenty year-old memory had been in my head, I saw a fellow dog walker, with her two dogs. One of them jumped up to me a few times, leaving muddy paw prints on my trousers, and then on the sleeve of my coat. She apologised, and told her dog off for jumping up. I assured her it wasn’t a problem. “They are only my dog-walking clothes, don’t worry”.

Maybe it runs in the family?

A Domestic Update

After my recent post about being disrupted by the arrival of the painter today, it seems that the disruption was not as bad as I anticipated.

With everything piled into the middle of the living room and covered in dustsheets, I have been exiled into the office since 8:30. That meant an early trip to the supermarket, to get out of the way, and a slightly longer dog walk for Ollie after that.

Julie went into the bedroom to listen to music on her phone, and I was unable to sit and watch the midday news whilst eating my sandwich, as is my habit.

Otherwise, we have no curtains at the windows until later this week, and will probably be spending more time in the kitchen. Whether or not I will be able to get anything on the TV later, after having to disconnect the aerial, that remains to be seen. I had forgotten just how many wires sit unseen behind the unit that the TV stands on. Moving it right out this morning, I was actually surprised by the amount of cabling required to be able to watch stuff. There is the TV of course, then the Blu-Ray player. Add to that the streaming box, the PVR cabling, and lots of extra bits for a device that boost the signals, and there is enough electronic gadgetry there to facilitate the 1969 Moon landing, I’m sure.

One family member was very disrupted though. Poor Ollie the dog had his world turned upside down. His toy box had to be stored in another room, and he was unable to lie against the wall until we went out, as he usually does. Having to go out of the front door, along the side of the garage, then back in through the kitchen door confused him completely. Every time he followed me outside, he thought we were going out for our walk.

His frequent disappointment had to be seen to be believed.

This evening, I have to get at least one sofa out of its covers to sit on, and try to get something working on the TV. I suspect a very early night is in the offing.

But the main job will be trying to keep Ollie away from the walls, without shutting him in the kitchen. If we did that, he would think he was being punished for something, and wouldn’t understand.

The painter tells me he might have to give the woodwork a second coat on Thursday, so only three more days to go…