Ollie’s Nose

Ollie is a dog driven by the need to sniff things and smell them carefully. His nose can seemingly detect almost anything long before he can see it with his eyes. And because he has never been neutered, his main obsession is to leave his own scent everywhere, to let every other dog and animal around know that he is in the ‘Hood’. The short walk to Beetley Meadows, with the entrance visible from our house, begins with Ollie sniffing our front hedge. He then marks a few leaves of that hedge, just in case any other dogs are in doubt that he lives here.

Next, every road sign, wheelie bin, front gate, and back fence has to be marked, in a walk of less than one hundred yards that can take a good few minutes. Then his lead is removed, and he is free to mark the sign telling everyone about Beetley Meadows, before dealing with the four corners of the fences surrounding the children’s playground, followed by the basketball court. The first big Oak tree always gets a cursory splash, prior to the serious work of marking the nettles and other plants fringing the pathways.

Once he is satisfied with that, he lifts his head, nose twitching. He is trying to get the smell of any other local dogs, or a squirrel or deer in the vicinity. I am usually well ahead of him by the time he catches me up, after he has been checking under the blackberry bushes for any evidence of much smaller dogs who might have peed up them. Once we get to the bend in the river, Ollie goes into overdrive. There is the rubbish bin to deal with, the dog-waste bin, and the assorted picnic tables and benches.

By now, his ‘marking tanks’ have almost run dry, so he is straight into the river to refill them with a very big drink. Cooled and replenished, he trots off to sort out half a dozen molehills, and the reeds at the side of the riverbank. All this, and we have only been out for ten minutes. Once we are under the trees, every tree and overhanging branch must be inspected. As those trees are home to lots of squirrels, this takes a considerable amount of time. So I carry on walking, and let him catch me up later.

If he arrives with his jowls covered in froth, looking like he has just downed an exceptionally milky cappuccino, then I can be sure he has detected some ‘lady-dog pee’. And if that dog was in season, he will have enough foam around his mouth to make any passerby think he had Rabies.

We have now arrived at the bridge, on the way across to Hoe Rough.

The bridge has to be inspected carefully by Ollie. So many dogs cross it in a day, that he has to mark at least three spots, sometimes five. And woe betide I try to pull him away using his lead. He will stand his ground, suddenly becoming dead weight, refusing to budge until the sniffing is complete. Getting through the gate at Hoe Rough is a mission in itself. Every wooden bar and post of the large gate has to be examined in minute detail, and ‘precision pees’ delivered onto the smallest areas. Any dog coming onto the small nature reserve must be left in no doubt that Ollie has entered before them.

Then I let him off again, for the majority of his daily walk. Off he goes, tracking overnight deer, dogs from earlier that day, and any other smell of any sort he can detect. Once the long walk is over, you can guarantee that he will repeat the process as we retrace our steps on the way home.

Just in case.

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.

Ollie and The Painter

For the last three days, poor Ollie has been discombobulated. When the painter arrived early on Monday morning, as far as my dog was concerned, he was just a guest, and a potential playmate. He wagged his tail enthusiastically, and brought his most treasured toy, a tattered and smelly stuffed lion. But there was no time for play, as much work needed to be done.

Living in a one-level bungalow, there is no escape from having to go in and out of the two small hallways. We did our best, by leaving one of them free, which meant I was exiled from the small office room. But the other hallway is essential for access to both bathroom and kitchen, so disturbance of the tradesman was inevitable.

But worst of all, Ollie’s habit of following me around had to be curtailed. He could not understand why he wasn’t allowed to accompany me into the kitchen or bedroom, and why he was not allowed to lay down against the freshly-painted skirting boards. Much of the day was spent telling him to ‘Lie down’, ‘Stay’, or ‘Move’. He just didn’t understand what he was doing wrong, and took it as if he was being scolded for something. The sorrowful expression on his wrinkled face was painful to behold.

By yesterday afternoon, as all seven doors were in the process of being painted, the area available to the distressed dog had been reduced to not much more than twice his own size. Refusing to rest, he just stood staring at me, wondering why I wouldn’t throw his toys, or play tug-of-war with them. Even extra strokes and fuss couldn’t shake his gloomy mood. Once the painter had finished, and left for the day, Ollie naturally presumed that he would be granted his usual freedom to roam. But no. We had seven wet doors and some skirting boards to contend with, and he could not be allowed to brush past them, or lean against them.

I took him out to the kitchen for his dinner, shepherding him carefully past the wet paint. When he had eaten, he expected his evening play as usual. But once again, I had to disappoint him, as I could not risk him swiping one of his large stuffed toys across the fresh paint. His gloomy visage returned, and he slumped down on his rug with an audible sigh. I felt so guilty, and wished he could understand it was only temporary. But he couldn’t of course, and spent the evening stressed, and unable to relax, constantly seeking reassurance.

Today, we have no work going on. Ollie has crashed out, fast asleep on his rug. He is catching up on all the rest he has lost over the last three days, and dreaming his canine dreams.

I dare not mention the carpet layers, who are arriving next week. I will let him rest for now.

Looking For Dexter

Today is the start of the school Easter holidays, so I expected to see more kids around once I got over to Beetley Meadows with Ollie. However, there were only a few, so perhaps most had gone off somewhere with their families, as it was a very warm and sunny day today.

I had only been out for ten minutes or so, when I was approached by a young girl riding a cycle. She looked to be around ten years old, and politely asked me if I had seen a big black dog.

I told her I hadn’t, but promised to help search for it if she gave me more details. It was a Labradoodle, a cross between a Labrador and Standard Poodle that is a very popular breed to own these days. It’s name was Dexter, and it was being looked after at their house, while the owners were on holiday. I asked her where I should go if I found him, and she happily gave me her address. I promised to look hard, and went off with Ollie in search of the runaway.

As I looked around the nearby wooded area, it occurred to me how trusting the girl was, to have given me her home address without hesitation. Another sign of living somewhere peaceful, where nothing bad happens.

After a full search of the immediate area, I headed over to Hoe Rough, in case Dexter had crossed the river to that larger Nature Park. But after a good hour or more of searching, and venturing up as far as the busy Holt Road, I hadn’t seen anything, and Ollie and I were the alone on Hoe Rough anyway. I went back to Beetley Meadows, where I asked some other dog walkers to keep an eye out for Dexter.

Before returning home, I decided to check at the address given by the girl, which is not far from my own house. After ringing the bell, I waited a long time. As I was about to leave, she nervously opened the door a little, relaxing when she saw me there with Ollie. I asked if she had found him, and she said she had. I told her I was pleased about that, and left.

So the runaway is safe and sound, and I felt better, knowing that Ollie and I had done our bit.

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.