I am new to having a dog, and new to the ritual of dog walkies. With Pumpjack working as an Oenologist in Chablis for the harvest season, it fell to me to walk our young Chewie in the mornings.
This was not something I was looking forward to. Particularly as the days are closing in and the weather is turning colder, not to mention, wetter. Then there is the time it will take away from my day. Turns out though, I must say, I love it. I have always wanted to be a morning person, and the animals have definitely cemented this reality with their dawn (if not earlier) to dusk lifestyle.
Our day begins before dawn, with coffee in bed. While the kettle boils, the cats are fed, and Chewie and the ducks join us whilst we wake up to the day.
After seeing off Pumpjack, Chewie (standard size dachshund*), Maggie (pet house duck), Beepbeep (half way between pet and not duck, but picked on by other ducks so hangs out with Maggie and now sleeps in the cottage too) and I (phew!), get ready to head out. This involves much excitement, quacking and milling about the front door as I get my wellies on, keys in pocket, mp3 player and dog lead.
And… they’re off! It’s a race to see who can get out the door first. Then we all congregate at the top of the path going down to the other animals. Chewie normally runs ahead but is quickly over taken by Maggie and Beepbeep as they fly over. Occasionally Gigi or Lapsong, our ginger and tiger cats respectively, race us as we head down (if they haven’t decided to snooze after their breakfast).
Once I’ve let the other ducks and chickens out for the day, Chewie and I head to the bottom gate for his ‘walkies’. We are surrounded by farmland, lanes, tracks and fields, but each morning is dictated by the weather and whether we have a cat with us. If Gigi or Lapsong have decided they want to come we head across the river to a field, over a blocked to traffic bridge. My reasoning is two-fold, safety from vehicles and closer to home as they don’t always opt to come back with us at the end of the walk. I prefer to feel secure that they are able to find their own way back with ease.
The other walk is a dirt track that heads off along the river and in amongst the fields. This is my preference as it is drier under foot but also gives me a good amount of time to listen to my French lessons. The Michel Thomas’ course has become a firm favourite, of the many we have tried. It has definitely assisted both of us with our understanding and speaking in French and can be highly recommended. But like most language learning, if you don’t do it regularly and give it some real concentration, it doesn’t sink in as well. That’s another reason I have come to enjoy the walks so much, it gives me, even makes me, take the time to listen, absorb and learn.
Sometimes Maggie, and thus the other following ducks, decide they would like to accompany us as well and follow us to the bottom gate. When this happens, I have to be sneaky as I do not want them to go beyond the fence for their own safety (traffic, hunting, other dogs and predators being the staple reasons). And, honestly, it would be a truly slow walk with ducks waddling alongside, too. So, Chewie and I double back, head back up the hill and out the front gate. However, going out the front means putting Chewie on his lead to walk around the property on the lanes, until we are back at the bottom gate, but on the other side of the fence.
Generally, when we take this route, we are joined by a cat, as they prefer walks out the front gate for some reason. If this is the case we end up walking a lot slower, as the cats, particularly Gigi, are notorious for flitting back and forth in search of mice, or simply to tease Chewie. They love that he is on an extendible lead, as this allows them to run past him, let him give chase and unerringly stop just beyond where his lead comes to a halt. I have learned to keep Chewie closer to me and not let him fall for their teasing ways, otherwise we would never get anywhere.
We work our way around to the back gate, often to be greeted once again by the ducks, where we then enter so the cats are once again back on home ground and the ducks aren’t tempted to venture out. Yes, walkies can be complicated.
I often take this opportunity to then walk with the ducks, or maybe I should say meander as they are not the quickest walkers, rather waddlers. They are often diverted by a tasty bug, worm or chance to dip their beak into a muddy patch. Sometimes we only make it a few meters, generally back to their pond. Other times we make it all the way to the cottage.
I love when this happens as it always makes me smile to find myself walking up the path at the head of a line of ducks. Inevitably it is Maggie immediately behind me, telling me how they are doing and whether I need to slow down or wait for a bug forage.
Hopping with Happiness
Beyond all the fun and kerfuffle with the various other animals, there are two lovely reasons I enjoy the walks. As a dachshund, Chewie takes to hopping when he is happy. Picture the way a deer bounds, now shorten her legs, a lot, and you have what Chewie looks like bounding though a field or along the lane edge. I once saw him bounding after a deer and it took a moment to realise it wasn’t two deer as he gets almost as high. When he is happy he bounds, and he is at his happiest on the walks in the fallow fields where he can come off his lead and explore and romp to his hearts content.
The other is the sheer tranquillity and beauty of a dawn morning. It doesn’t matter the weather (though I prefer it not raining). It is sheer bliss walking along, only myself and my dog, watching the ever changing light as it strengthens with the day.
* Our Chewie is a standard sized Dachshund. He is larger than most people imagine a dachshund to be (though he still has those short legs). A full-grown standard dachshund averages 16 lb (7.3 kg) to 32 lb (15 kg). Chewie is 16.5kg. And it’s all muscle. Dachshund’s were bred to hunt small burrowing animals such as foxes, rabbits, but particularly badgers. Dachs meaning badger; hund meaning dog. For more information – Wikipedia.