Psssssttttt….. Come closer… I vil say zis only vonce….. Bit of a secret, this but it’s high time it was out there….. I’m only able to cycle as much as I do because I don’t have a dog any more.
If I had a dog, I’d be out walking it twice a day. It would be with me when I went to the shops, on days out to the seaside or the mountains and on holidays. So that would only leave a short amount of time left for cycling, which is how things used to be until my dog died.
Before that, Roly used to come down to the Forest and run alongside the bike, or run along the local cycle trail, he’d run alongside on trails in the Lake District or the New Forest. So after his death, it was a sort of therapy to plunge headlong into cycling to the exclusion of all else. For a long, long time, it was too heart-wrenchingly awful to walk or run the same routes that Rolls and I habitually covered, day after day, but cycling took me away from all that.
While I totally love cycling, I still feel compelled to get good big doses of dog lurve when I can – which brings me to two friends who have three gorgeous working cocker spaniels and why we were walking in thick mist up on the highest point of Gloucestershire, Cleeve Hill, on Sunday morning.
I reckon that out of the many times I’ve met up with my pals for dog walks, it’s been clear and sunny just the once. On the other times it’s been misty, rainy, windy, freezing cold, dank.. and there’s usually been an air ambulance passing overhead at some point in the walk, adding to that “anything might happen” frisson. But hey, you dress for it with layers and waterproofs. We snigger at people wearing new shoes in the mud and clutching designer handbags and shivering in chi-chi little jackets while attempting a short stroll. I still have a couple of (unused) poo bags in my waterproof pocket and i haven’t had a dog for three years now, my pal F has a pocket full of dog treats and my other pal J has a pocket full of leads. We are muddy, windswept, laughing and doggy. It’s very good indeed.
The nice thing is that everyone we meet on the top of Cleeve Common around the area where the very first Cheltenham Races were held in the (guessing here) 18th century (almost certain that’s right) is also muddy, windswept and doggy, apart from the mountainbikers, who are all those things except doggy. Oh, and the horseriders, who are actually probably the most immaculate people on the hill, being only a teeny bit doggy and not in the least muddy.
Apart from the actual dog, one of the things I miss about not having one is the easy social contact and cameraderie among dog owners. In my own village I could be guaranteed to bump into two or three people a day who I knew because of their dogs.
Yesterday on Cleeve Hill, we met, stopped and passed the time of day with at least seven groups of people with dogs. The dogs love the chance to meet and greet other dogs or play chase with the younger dogs and puppies… and it’s interesting to see the different shapes and sizes of the dogs – mostly cocker spaniels, springer spaniels, border collies and terriers yesterday.
It just confirmed what I’ve thought for a long time… that dog ownership is healthy not only in terms of sharing the companionship and watching the joie de vivre and canine dynamics of the dog but as a means of amiable communication with others.
View from Cleeve Hill – there’s Cheltenham, and Prestbury Park Racecourse down there, and the Severn Vale beyond… and you should be able to see the Malvern Hills on the other side of the Vale!
Dog walkers in the mist
The three amigos.