About twenty years ago a bypass was built to circumvent the village. We used to ride our bikes along it with our youngest daughter before it was finished. We wouldn’t attempt that now with the volume and speed of traffic that thunders along it.
Though the bypass may have been advantageous for the local traders and pedestrians, it bisected the forest and to reach the larger area it became necessary to go through an echoing underpass which local graffiti artists have used as a canvas. It’s a long time since we travelled into the further forest, since the last three years have involved elderly dogs, first Dominie, and then Buddy, requiring shorter walks and more attention at home.
It was a beautiful day on Sunday so we went for a long walk into the remoter reaches of Crowthorne (properly Windsor) Forest and on into Swinley Forest. We decided not to take any retrievable toys for Jenna and Gus and they thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity for new sniffs, sights and sounds.
We rambled through Silver Birch avenues and rides of Sweet Chestnut, past Larches and Scots Pines and across heather-carpeted heathland.
Eventually we reached a favourite spot, a tree-shaded lake of sandy-bottomed clean water. The dogs gratefully swam into it and the Labradors spent an agreeable time retrieving large branches.
Frodo was happy to bathe and drink and practice his own form of retrieving, which involved the small bone-shaped biscuits I had taken out with me.
We were returning along the Devil’s Highway when Gus yelped and came to me in pain and fright, holding up his left hind leg. Barry and I looked but could see no obvious damage and after reassurance Gus trotted off and was soon absorbed by more interesting fascinations. We speculated briefly whether an adder had been involved but convinced ourselves that that was probably not the case. We were a long way from home and the consequences of him suffering a snake bite were not to be relished.
He soon became engaged with a large branch which he periodically stopped to chew, reducing its weight little by little.
We had reached the ‘home side’ of the forest, but were still some three miles from the car, when Frodo suddenly yelped and held up his left hind leg. Again, we looked but could see no injury and supposed that the increasingly solid Gus might have barged into him. We hoped that Frodo might walk off the pain and indeed this appeared to be the case.
However, in the ensuing hours after arriving home, there were several occasions when Frodo cried out, usually when he was twisting in some way, so we thought he might have pulled a muscle. On one occasion he became so distressed when trying to get out of his bed that he had a partial seizure.
When Monday dawned bright and beautiful, Frodo remained at home with me while Barry took Jenna and Gus out. We felt that rest, warmth and as little movement as possible would help him to heal. By Tuesday he seemed a little better, though still inclined to shriek when his back legs became entangled or twisted. Once again, he stayed with me while the others went out. The fact that he didn’t complain or attempt to go with them was an indication that all was not well. Finally, a great screech of pain while he was in the garden convinced us that veterinary intervention was required so off he went to see Phil-the-Vet, the orthopaedic specialist. I feared the worst, expecting hip or back problems, which had made the last months for Dominie and Buddy so difficult, even though Frodo is still quite young, but it transpired that he had strained a muscle and that an analgesic was all that was required.
Yesterday, Wednesday, he protested bitterly when Barry took the others out, grizzling the whole time until they returned and it was obvious that he was feeling much better. So today we went out in the cold, brilliant weather for a short amble. Frodo was supposed to be on a lead but as he never leaves my side that was quite unnecessary. He had his habitual bathe and then watched as the Labradors raced around in the long grass and in and out of the water. He was a much happier boy but yelped when it was supper time. It was almost twenty-four hours since his last pain-killer so it was not entirely unexpected.
Now, fed and watered, medicated and warm, he is sound asleep in his bed. Each day brings improvement and soon he will be his customary athletic self again. Not for nothing do we and our vets refer to Frodo as our ‘problem child.’