16 July 2008

It's a dog's life - the dog fraternity

My average weekday starts by checking Kay's alarm has gone off and that she has managed to prise her eyes open enough to sit up and even get up out of bed. Once she is breakfasted and out heading for the bus for school, I am able to devote some quality time to the dog. Everyone in the house gets some of my quality time (even the cat, when she is allowed to sit on my lap for a 5-minute cuddle and head massage). I always give Snoopy his main walk first thing in the morning, so that I have the rest of the day to plan out and deal with whatever else needs doing. Because there is usually so much to do, I act like an automaton and go through my lists of things to do, things to chase , cheques to write, shopping to get. Without my routine, things would really fall apart in the Alcoholic Daze household. Anyway, back to the dog. He follows me around the house in great expectation of woodland smells or park playmates, afraid that if he takes his eyes off me for a second, I shall dart through the front door without him and go for a long squirrel-hunt on my own. If I prepare the doggy bag - the special bag I take full of biscuit treats and poop bags - he knows it's definitely happening and by now he is prancing around at my feet, tail a-wagging, almost with a big grin on his face. On goes his lead, we jump into the car and head for the park before 8.15am.

Through this daily ritual, I have come to know a very good friend. An elderly lady called Shirley, a retired school-teacher, who walks her dog in the park at the very same time as me. Both her dog and mine are good friends too. Her dog distrusts all other dogs and for some reason will only allow Snoopy to nuzzle her, cavort with her and sniff her rear end. Any other dog even attempting to do any of those things gets the sharp end of her very sharp teeth in their flesh with a snarl and a snap to boot. Shirley and I spend many an early morning walking the circuit of the park together and putting the world to rights, while the dogs run figures of eight around us. She does not know about Greg's real condition of course. She is one of those to whom I tell the abridged version. Shirley is a mine of information, being an ex-school-teacher, I suppose, and I enjoy her company. It is the only real time I have to get out of the house and be among normal people. My two closest friends live some considerable way away and although we email regularly, we only get to meet about once a year (see my post Best Friends.)

Sometimes Shirley is not in the park, or I arrive a bit later than usual, but I still enjoy the walk on my own in the early morning quiet. Our very large park has some beautiful trees, lovely woodland dells where you can feel as if you are the only person in the world and be at one with


nature. It also has a fairly large lake with a good selection of ducks, geese and swans, whose antics never fail to amuse. There are large herbaceous borders too with different species of plants carefully tended by the park gardeners. Then there is the children's playground, often a haven for the local comprehensive schoolboys who make a detour on their way to school and hurl themselves about on the swings and roundabouts, hoping that they will be transported into another realm where they will not have to go to school. There is something for everyone in the park. I can take my problems here and have them solved - at least in my head - before I am leaving the park gates again. I can close my eyes and pretend I am not in a big city but in the middle of the countryside. It is my little piece of heaven.

Living in London, or I imagine in any big city the world over, people tend to be very aloof. You do not just talk to anyone. You have to know them really well to even get a nod out of someone. Even neighbours can co-exist without really knowing first names. You pass people on the street or in shops, on the train or even in a lift and not a single word is uttered. Eyes are averted. You hope you can pass by without the silence being an embarrassment. But get a dog and suddenly the ice melts. Complete strangers will pass you in the street or in the park and if you both have a dog, the very least you will get is a "Good Morning", as each person and their canine partner go their opposite ways. More often than not, the dogs will intertwine, sniff or play the chase game, whereupon the owners will engage in conversation about what breeds the dogs are, how old they are, what their idiosyncrasies are. Before you know it, you have heard about the owner's operations, their love lives and any number of intimate details. You do not get this amount of openness and friendliness if you are pushing a pram with a cute baby poking out of it. I know. I've done that and got the cold-shoulder. Often, usually in the most deserted, darkest piece of woodland I might come face to face with a lone man. In this day and age, the first automatic instinct is to feel slightly anxious that you may not be safe. But as soon as his dog appears from behind a shrub, the situation changes and you stop, chat and end up waving goodbye to one another, having swapped another life history!! Isn't life funny?


laurie said...

i like this. you're right, the socialness that dogs bring us. shirley sounds great, and her dog sounds riley-esque.

and the man in the woods...i'd have the same reaction as you.

Anonymous said...

"Even neighbours can co-exist without really knowing first names"

This is so true, even where I live in a fairly nice area. I live in a small private block of flats but don't know the NAMES of anyone. I know *vaguely* who they are, just to say hello to, when meeting on the stairs or hallway.

Wish I could get a dog but I am renting on a typical "no children, no pets lease". I long for the day when I own my own place, with a bit of garden.

I will also be able to catch up with some relaxation time this weekend, thanks for thinking about that, Rosiero!

Best wishes to Kay + Snoopy as well,

Anonymous said...


I can't reveal the 'distraction' yet (sorry). I just can't.

Mr Distraction will go mad if I reveal wayyyyy too soon + count chickens before they have hatched etc etc.

In fact I probably should slap myself for even mentioning "exciting things" and "distractions" in my blog or comments because that is leading too many people to ask questions and, ummmmmmm, I think I am fairly close to jinxing the whole thing or saying too much too soon.

Just slap me, OK?


Hadriana's Treasures said...

I know what you mean. In the country (at least where we are) people chat and smile. As soon as I go into Newcastle it's all different again and people will not look each other in the eye let alone smile! A friend, when I lived in London, said everyone crumbled when he had a dog...maybe I should take our dog with me into the big town? Like your blog...is your name Spanish by the way?

ADDY said...

Hadriana - no - it is a mixture of my real first names all jumbled up. I use it sometimes as a username for other things and it ended up being my user name here too.

ADDY said...

GTAF - I was only teasing. I can quite understand that you don't want to jinx anything. We are all being incredibly nosy!!

abcd said...

The park sounds like a beautiful place to walk and relax for a while.
I often go on fairly long walks at weekends with the OH and some friends, between us we have four dogs so we are not easily missed but like you we have met lots of lovely people who stopped for a chat and to make a fuss of the dogs.

aims said...

I live in a small town and am friendly with my neighbours...but I don't live in their pockets.

And since I don't have a dog and don't leave the house all that often...well...some days it gets rather lonely and I live my social life through the computer.

btw - don't be too upset about Stinking Billy and his award. He actually isn't that technical and doesn't know how to load things onto his blog. But he does appreciate the thoughts....he just won't admit to this..the silly nut!

Millennium Housewife said...

You are so right about the dog thing! Husband has walked our puppy every morning and evening since we got him in May. Being a very hard worker and studier he rarely gets out into the neighbourhood and he has suddenly started making friends. In fact he nods to more people than me when we are out together! He says that if he was simply a lone man walking at 6am or 7pm people, especially women would treat him warily, and understandably so. But with the dog he is approachable and an immediate friend. I'm so glad you have all this going on in your life, there are many lovely things to appreciate even in the bad times MH

Anonymous said...

Hi Rosiero,

I've just replied to your question on my blog -- I only get the standard one hour for lunch and although the circuit could be done in an hour, I usually just do half, and leave myself half an hour to eat!


Anonymous said...

That's a beautiful photograph of the lake. My mum used to walk our family pet, Ben around fields near where she lived and she met loads of lovely people on those walks. Dogs are so good for that sort of thing.

CJ xx

blogthatmama said...

Which one's Snoopy? Both dogs look lovely, as does your walk, sounds like a lovely morning ritual blogthatmamax

ADDY said...

Blogthatmama - Actually neither are Snoopy - I just used a google image of two dogs playing. Snoopy is a black and tan mongrel - a cross between a Manchester Terrier and a German Shepherd, but looks incredibly like a Doberman (in looks and size) but with a long tail. The picture of the park is genuine and comes from a website about it. I don't use my own photos or real names to keep some anonymity for obvious reasons. Hope you understand.