For the past few months every time I have left the house for a day out on the hill, our two dogs have been giving me the puppy eyes, and sparked a whole lot of guilt each time I shut the front door. With them behind it.
I hadn’t been taking them with me because of the general faff involved: leads, poo bags, dog snacks, water bowls etcetera.
However, recently I’ve been in need of company every now and then. Walking by myself 99% of the time is wonderful, fantastic, GREAT even. Yet my own company for 6-7 hours at a time, every time, can be a bit wearing… I needed a pal, a buddy – a trusty hound.
‘Why not walk with a human?’ I hear you thinking. Well, most of my friends have full-time jobs and even more of them don’t live in Lancashire, which is a bit of a bummer. Otherwise I had been dragging my poor unsuspecting Dad out, who hasn’t joined me since a pretty horrendous day weather-wise up on the moors. Dear Lord it was muddy. Exhaustingly muddy. Cramp enduringly muddy. I feel pretty guilty about that one. I was determined to go out in (if you remember) the bleak pre-Christmas rain we had last year under my don’t be a another-word-for-a-cat-beginning-with-‘p’ policy: and dragged my Dad and brother down with me in the process. Oops.
Anyways, seeing my want of company my mum suggested to me that I should take the smallest one on one of my recent trips into the Dales. It didn’t take much convincing, I wanted company and Bru was free. He’s unemployed and in the vicinity, and most of all: keen.
I was certainly wary. Bru is a terrier, therefore notoriously disobedient, and he also has really really short legs. Yet despite the foot deep snow, he was great. He bounded along in the powder with little bobbles of snow forming icy socks, and perhaps less-cutely around his … dog cajones, which I had to regularly defrost (I didn’t want to take home an exhausted AND infertile dog).
There was the one instance when he took off like a bolt after a pheasant, with me streaking after him, praying he didn’t bound over a sheer drop and into the abyss below. Fortunately he didn’t, but he only stopped when the bird had flown too far away to be seen anymore. Despite my shouting, sprinting and shaking dog-treats in his general (ever diminishing) direction.
Even so, I came home with a glowing report of my friend for the day. Once we made it back to Morticia the Mini he curled up on the front seat and passed out, it was adorable. Or ‘adorbs’ as I’ve taken to saying in a hideously 21st Century manner. I like to keep down with kids.
All in all, it got me thinking on the merits of walking with dogs. They love walks and mud, and any combination of the two is a dream come true. They don’t complain when they’re tired, wet or hungry and they drink from puddles so always carry enough water. They’re easy company and they don’t care which way is up as long they’re outside. You could march them back and forth and backward again and they wouldn’t complain. Oh, and they prove to be excellent ready-to-use hot water bottles. Especially our Bru who’s essentially a thermal rug.
Although there is one thing that is a bit of a hassle: having more than one dog, on leads. Trying to map read and manage two wayward dogs, one straining to get ahead and pulling your arm out of its socket whilst the other is angelic, is hard work. The majority of the time it was manageable, a bit fiddly with maps and gloves and things flying everywhere, but manageable. It was manageable until I had to get them over the styles.
The other day I took both (I felt guilty leaving one…) and either they couldn’t get over, or simply didn’t want to. This meant hoiking them one at a time over said obstruction or trying to find a gap for them to fit through. Or one would go through the gap whilst the other would try to jump over, getting their leads in a tangle and me wrapped up in them. Absolute chaos. It was just me cursing under my breath in a clough with no-one around to hear. On top of a long walk, repeatedly lifting a couple of 15 kilo canines is exhausting. Cooper, our Spaniel, who might I add is perfectly capable of leaping over any fence he wishes, sometimes refused to hop over. Why? I swear it’s because he was using it as an excuse for a free hug. He got half way up, realised that he could scab an extra tummy rub through the process of lifting, and then looked at me pathetically until I succumbed to giving him a leg-over. Yes, he’s that soft. You wouldn’t catch a person doing that.
At least, I don’t think you would…
Ultimately (and obviously) I prefer walking with people, mainly because they can talk to me.
Dogs don’t speak human, as much as we like to think they do. Which is a shame, because my favourite thing about hiking is getting to share the experience with others. Dogs effectively shrug when you point out the view, and wonder why it’s considered a good view if there isn’t a ball in the midst of it.
It won’t stop me from getting a fluffy mountain buddy in the future though, surely I can have the best of both worlds.