We have been making the most of our last few holiday days before the In-Charge is back at college, which has resulted in our introducing her to rather a lot of new places at once.
We took her to the woods the first day.
When asked if she had enjoyed the experience, she wasn't sure. She thought she might have done, but confessed she had spent a good bit of the walk worrying what the ultimate destination might prove to be.
Next, we took her to our favourite beach. She was very reluctant to enter the car in case we were moving her on again - this is her 4th location in as many weeks, after all - but she perked up considerably when we got there.
At the beach the In-Charge persuaded me to let her off the lead which I did - reluctantly. After just two days she certainly didn't know her name, but there was no one there, and the tide was right out, so the sand stretched invitingly from here to Manhattan. They raced and chased and she circled and returned, circled and returned, and then - just as I was starting to relax she took off and flew towards the distant sand dunes.
|First day at the beach|
Fortunately the In-Charge is much calmer than I am. He sent Model Dog after her, and when they were both standing in the distant marram grass looking from us to the high dunes behind them and back again, he blew his whistle. I think I held my breath as Model Dog streamed back across the sand towards us, but our new arrival followed after only a moment's hesitation. I put her back on the lead after that. Even if she hadn't had enough exercise, I'd had enough palpitations.
By our third outing, she was happier to get into the car. We took her to the headland and the two of them flew over the bumpy mounds in ecstasy. It was wonderful to watch.
Model Dog was over the moon to have someone to chase, someone to chase her. I was surprised to find that Model Dog, who is larger and heavier, is also faster, despite SuperModel's racing chassis. I wonder how long that will last?
On the way home we passed several groups walking the coast road in the afternoon sunshine, their pooches trotting happily along the grass verge. SuperModel barked viciously out of the back window at each and every one.
We aren't used to barking dogs. The hounds of our experience have been almost completely silent.
'What's she saying?' I asked the In-Charge.
'This is MY road, MY headland, MY car and MY family. GO AWAY! NOW!' he replied promptly.
This afternoon, our last day off, we decided to go back to the headland, but when we got there it was full of people, so instead we drove to the far end of the woods. It's a place we rarely go to, so it has the special feel of Christmas, or snow, or high days and holidays.
When we got to the end of the walk, I was so chilled out, I allowed the In-Charge to lead me onto the narrow path that carries on along the top of the steep, wooded bank. It is high, high above the river, very overgrown, very muddy and to my mind, akin to a goat ledge on the top of Mont Blanc.
Not for humans.
Not this human, anyway. I fall off stepladders if I go higher than the second rung.
Even worse, the other side of the track is dense with prickly hedgerow and barbed wire screening off tantalizing glimpses of blissfully flat, level, green fields. But fields containing sheep and horses and hares - all those things that an un-tried hound mustn't be let near.
|View from the goat path|
It was - if not exactly fine and dandy - at least survivable, until we came to the end of the chamois trail.
Then, happily, I spotted our escape route back to the real world. 'Oh look, there are steps down to the river.' I said brightly.
There were some rough steps. All three of them.
However, going on seemed better than turning back, so we continued down the fisherman's path, clambering through brambles, holly bushes and fallen wood until we reached the water.
Safe at last, I thought, visions of tea and Christmas cake flitting temptingly through my head, but about a hundred yards further on, the In-Charge, nobly leading the way, announced that we had come to the end of anything that could remotely be called passable.
'Is the river very deep here?' I asked hopefully. Paddling had never seemed so appealing. Even in walking boots and January-cold water.
'Yes,' he said, peering in. He sounded uncompromising.
We ended up scaling the North Face.
My gorgeous son in New Zealand likes mountain climbing. Totally mad, but what can you do?
I, on the other hand, prefer my mountains on post cards.
|The North Face|
I am deeply un-athletic.
My sister gyms and runs, my brother cycles to Paris and back, Wonder-brother rushes about renovating houses.
I eat too much and waddle forth for leisurely walks with the dogs.
There was nothing leisurely about that particular walk. Model Dog set off, unfazed, heroically coming back to my side whenever she thought I'd been stationary for too long. 'It's all right for you,' I told her, somewhat resentfully. 'You can just leap and scrabble and dig in your claws and propel yourself vertically into the air over vast tracts of impassable undergrowth.'
I, on the other hand, ascended somewhat less elegantly, scrambling upwards on knees, toes, hands and chin, tummy moulded to the dripping incline, using my elbows, teeth and fingernails to hang on to anything more deeply rooted than moss. Bracken, which I've never given much thought to, has risen in my estimation, and after frantically chanting 'Don't look down, don't look down!' the whole way up, I see how mantras have become so popular.
All in all, it was not a pretty sight.
The In-Charge hauled me up the worst bits in true movie-hero style (my arm has nearly settled back into its socket, thank you). He kindly pointed out various hand and footholds, but they were mostly out of my reach, and all nestled in the slippery, oily mud slyly concealed beneath the fragile plants clinging to the vertical slope.
Not having either a goat or a monkey as a grandparent, I can't say it was one of my happier sorties into the woods.
Our new baby didn't seem full of the joys either. She hovered uncertainly behind me, deftly following my lumbering ascent, her stilettos doing a better job than my sturdy walking boots and scrabbling fingers.
|What are we DOING here?|
Three times I thought the ledge above my head was the longed-for chamois trail, only to find it was just another ledge. And then, as with fading resolve I launched myself at the final ascent, SuperModel surged upwards, leapt onto the path, and disappeared through an infinitesimal gap in the hedge to the forbidden pastures beyond.
Oh woe. Oh calamity. Oh impetus like no other.
I levitated the last five yards.
We called. I shouted. Finally I hollered and ran - yes, ran - along the goat path trying to find a break in the brambles so that I could even see her. She was having a fine time, chasing perceived or imaginary scents to and fro across the field and paying no attention to us whatsoever. Mercifully there was no livestock in sight, and being a man of movie-hero propensities, the In-Charge had already managed to lever himself through the brambles and over the wire. I gave Model Dog a hearty shove in the same direction and did the only thing I could do. Call our errant SuperModel and watch.
The In Charge strolled in a leisurely way to mid-field and then squatted down, called Model Dog in and started making an extravagant fuss of her. In less than a minute SuperModel had paused, circled and then taken the bait, sidling in to be cuddled as well. A moment later he'd slipped her lead on, picked her up and lifted her over the fence.
When we finally got home, I'd largely recovered from my urgent need for a medicinal brandy, but we were all so wet and dirty it seemed as good a time as any to give SuperModel a bath.
She endured it with good grace and was very pleased with herself as we towelled her dry in the warm kitchen afterwards. She bounced around looking like a coy coat hanger covered in blonde fluff, but after shaking several times and licking herself all over, she curled up in her bed and went out like a light, an old T shirt for a duvet.
|Tired but oh so happy. Or is it, happy but oh so tired?|
Four days into her new adventure, I think she has definitely clicked 'Like'.
We certainly have.
Tomorrow she is booked in for her first visit to the dreaded Needle-Lady to be vaccinated and chipped.
Let's hope that doesn't make her change her mind!