Monday, 7 March 2016

I've been rejected by my own dog!

Can I just walk with herself? You cannot resist these eyesszzzz....

I’ve just been rejected by my own dog. Was there ever a sadder sentence? I’m not guilty of any acts of cruelty or deprival. If I’ve erred in any way on dog ownership it’s towards being a soft git with her, but there’s a reason for that.

When the IVF failed we knew we needed an extra heartbeat in the house, and after many moons searching for the right soul, we adopted Lady from the wonderful people at

Introducing our pooch to friends, the Snapper declares that Lady is our child-replacement dog, and although we fully understand that all three of our lives will be happier as long as we treat her like a dog, it’s hard sometimes to switch off the nurturing urges inside us.

This morning I woke to a perfect dawn. Frost was melting, the sky slowly revealing itself to be cloudless as the mist rose from the earth. I read in bed for a while but then could wait no longer, eager to be out there.

Lady and I were off to the do The Double, our regular early morning walk.

Straight over the road at the end of our bohreen, go a hundred yards past high hedges of bramble, ivy on birch and holly and a clearing emerges, offering miles of magnificent rural cocktail.

Away in the distance open bogland stretches to views of Connemara mountains, a landscape crammed with the perfect combination of wildlife to make a collie-lab’s nose twitch like a flamenco castanet.

Reclaimed from this ancient terrain are fields of pasture, painstakingly cleared of stone by dedicated farmers. Water flows in small rivers and stagnates in drainage ditches, where dumped plastic bottle trash disturbs my soul, but to focus on that would be to miss the point.

When Lady first arrived the Snapper and I realised that we needed identification points, so that we could share our tales of what happened on The Double today and where. 

Like our Neolithic forbears, we started talking of Pheasant Nest Corner, Sniffy Woods, Grassy Knoll and The Flood. Thanks to Whispering Blue - definitely part of Lady’s pack - an open expanse became Sniper Alley.

Three miles from start to finish, Lady and I have walked The Double for years, and however pathetic it might be, as I sit here feeling emotionally sore, I will indulge myself today and add that many hundreds of those walks were done with pain in each step, in my knee or dodgy back.

There was no heroism involved because I walk anyway, always have and always will. I walk for my sanity and for the love of the world outside, but when Lady sees a hare or decides to attack another dog, my feeble spine gets ripped asunder. As I restrain her on the lead, pain sears down my leg and in ten seconds another months’ worth of damage is done.

Never mind that though. I love walking my dog and adore being out there, staring at a dank patch of intact mossy woodland, as she scrabbles about in the undergrowth. 

As our walks are at roughly the same time of the morning all year round, I’m learning how the impact of the seasons can somehow be both gentle yet simultaneously stark.

Working at home, I need to know that the dog’s exercised before I sit here in my office, so come drizzle, sideways rain, storm force winds or scorching heat, we walk The Double.

Walking is an essential part of my writing process. As we race along the bohreens and paths, my mind wanders off to find an angle for a feature, or an opening sentence that will ease my entire day’s writing.

In front of me Lady’s ears flip up and down as she pads along, and all is good with the world.

Last December the Snapper was forced to leave work due to ill health. I’m delighted to say that she’s feeling better now, and in the meantime the dynamics of Lady’s life have changed.

Now I walk her almost every other day, and while my work patterns demand that we do The Double early, the Snapper goes on exciting lunchtime adventures over ditch and dale, where Lady can frolic with her puppy friend from down the road for hours on end.

As a result, my two girls are ridiculously in love and hey, the more love there is around the better.

Well, you’d think, until this morning, when Lady and I stepped out into the cold early sunshine that dared to whisper Spring under its breath.

I had an idea in my head that I wanted to mull over, so I was willing to allow Lady extended sniff time at her favourite wildlife hotspots, but as we walked up Sniper Alley she suddenly stopped.

I thought she might have been spooked by the sound of a distant farmer moving his cattle, so I reassured her and clicked my teeth to move us on, but no.

She didn’t want to budge.

I asked her what was wrong and she looked at me to say

‘I’m a dog, ye eedjit, so I can’t speak, but I’ve had my peeper and my pooper and now can I go back home because you’ll just take me on The Double and that means I won’t go out later for a proper long walk, which is what I really want.’

I know by this stage in my life that if relationships are to endure and deepen, it has to be imperfections we love. 

Despite strong rumours to the contrary, not all dogs enjoy empathy. The Snapper and I have often joked how Lady doesn’t appear to give a damn when one of us is injured or unwell.

Lady is a fickle beautiful beast and I love her dearly, but today, away from all that high-fallutin’ cod philosophy, it hurt like hell when my own dog didn’t want to walk with me.

©Charlie Adley

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