Missing from this photo are the various bags needed to contain and transport camera, GPS, et cetera
Barry and I usually take the dogs walking together. That is to say that together we take all the canines out at the same time – my goodness, how word order can change meaning. Occasionally, one of us cannot participate. The dogs don’t mind, so far as we can tell – they’re simply keen to follow up the pee and poohmails from the previous day.
When Barry is the sole human walker of the dogs they are familiar with every stage of the routine, becoming over-excited and, in Gus’ case, peeing on the floor if he hasn’t been put out to relieve himself.
First he goes upstairs to find the correct walking clothes (Barry, that is!) – heavy gauge trousers if it’s very cold, waterproof if the rain is falling, three-quarter length if the day is warm and bright. Gus follows him upstairs, sometimes beginning the overture to a howl – ohw, ohw, ohwwwrrrr - if Barry is taking an unreasonably long time over his preparations. Meanwhile, downstairs, Jenna and Frodo follow every footfall, every creaking floorboard, their heads turning this way and that, their ears standing to attention.
Shoes are very important – well, of course, Barry wouldn’t go barefoot (though I used to in my teens). Sturdy approach shoes, as used by climbers on the lower reaches of the Himalayas, are his customary choice. He even wears them with a business suit if there’s any likelihood of him having to walk further than fifty yards. Appearances are not of great consequence to him.
He reappears downstairs and disappears to the conservatory to check the weather on his laptop. This determines what sort of jacket he will wear. Will it be a warm fleece, a light waterproof, a heavy goretex, a down-filled coat? Next comes the hat and again there are choices to be made – cap, hat, Tilley? If the Tilley is selected it usually means the day is bright and sunny and so sunglasses are added.
The dogs are now beside themselves. What a strange expression that is. Obviously it cannot be literal – they can be beside each other, or me, or even the seaside, but not themselves. Perhaps it is intended to indicate that they are moving so rapidly in their anticipation of the pleasure to come that they present a blurred, whirling image. Whatever, the agitation quotient is increasing exponentially (I nearly wrote ‘excrementally . . . ) with the chances of a Gus puddle becoming ever more probable. He is dispatched to the garden, ‘just in case’ whereupon he barks, piddles, gallops between garden gate and patio door. Frodo and Jenna are now circling excitedly, deliberately impeding Barry’s progress for fear that they might be left behind. He trips over them and they move away apologetically.
There are not many more steps to be executed. Gloves, mobile phone, camera, video camera, Jenna’s tracker collar, Pacer poles, heart/pulse rate monitor chest strap and associated watch, (all physical exercise is logged) Garmin GPS, (might get lost!) headlamp in case it gets dark (and after all this time, dusk could well be approaching) Aqua kong for the Labradors and finally, car keys. Any one of these stages has the potential for further delay as mislaying, losing, forgetting all come into play though it’s true that the dogs can’t be mislaid.
Approaching the porch door – we have a sort of air lock that enables us to get to the front door without accompanying canines – our badly-trained dogs jostle for position. Gus is still outside. Barry makes his way into the porch and out of the house to unlock the dog car. Frodo and Jenna are let out and Jenna leaps into the car. Frodo looks questioningly at me – ‘Are you coming?’ he asks. Gus is released and joins Jenna, who grumbles at his exuberance. Frodo is encouraged into the car and as Barry drives away, gazes back at me, the answer to his query, this time, being ‘No’.
On his return, a long while later, Barry divests himself of his many gadgets and updates his exercise log.
It’s a different matter when I take them out on my own. I dress appropriately for the weather that I can see through the window, make sure I have my mobile phone (I’ve had it drummed into me never to leave home without it!), put my small camera in a pocket, find the kong, shepherd the hounds into the dog car and set off.
I can worry quite efficiently enough about where Jenna might be without the need to track her. If it rains, I get wet. If the sun shines, I squint and get too hot. If it’s chilly, I tuck my hands into my sleeves. If the cold wind blows, I bend my head against it, pull my inadequate jacket around me and shiver. Sometimes I wear a hat and sunglasses. If I think more physical effort is required, I walk faster. I have to concede that Barry is always far better equipped than me for any eventuality – but I get out walking much quicker than he does!
ps: We only use the word ‘Walkies’ in jest. It was a term used by the late Barbara Woodhouse.
pps: not for nothing did our son's friends dub Barry 'Inspector Gadget'.
Can you spot the difference between this photo and the first one? No prizes, I'm afraid ;-)