Kind of busy
One … two … three … four …
I’m trying to count them.
Five ... six ... seven. No, surely not.
There are six dogs dashing and circling around one petite woman. Large dogs, some of them.
It’s quite a sight: a wispy, young auburn-haired maiden, complete with nose-stud, billowing, flower-patterned dress and worn trainers, surrounded by a veritable cross-section of the canine world.
There’s a Cavalier King Charles spaniel, a huge deerhound-cross, a muscular white boxer, an overweight border collie, a dark brindle Staffordshire bull terrier. Oh, and an elderly wire-haired fox terrier, tottery but perky.
Well, she’s either a professional dog-walker or she’s one very energetic, generous-hearted, well-off lady with time on her hands.
I watch her making slow but steady progress across the park, laughing and occasionally admonishing gently as she goes.
“Hey, now, Barney, not too far …” to the Staffy, who’s belting around as though battery-powered. She squats down to extricate a twig from the fox terrier’s tail. “There we are, Lily, off you go.”
There’s a particular note in her voice. It’s kindly, but it has a detached quality, too. It rather reminds me of the soothing, affirming lilt of a dental assistant or a nursery school teacher.
I catch her eye and she beams broadly.
“What a bunch!” I say, admiringly.
“I normally only have four at a time, but there was a mix-up this morning – couldn’t say no!” Eyes wide and a mock-dizzy shake of her head.
“This one’s dictating the pace ...” She nods her head towards not the old terrier but the plodding chestnut coloured cavalier. ”I think he only really gets a proper walk when he’s with me.” Amused little shrug.
“What a lovely occupation … but I suppose it’s pretty busy?” I don’t want to sound naïve.
“Whey, watch it, mate!” she chuckles as the vast deerhound-cross careers past, narrowly missing her right elbow. “Rufus – you renegade!” her eyes all the while calmly circling the area to keep tabs on everyone.
“This is madness!” she laughs. And it clearly is, but it’s just as clear that she doesn’t really find it a problem. She’s making headway towards the other side of the park and isn’t going to be deflected.
“Yeah, kind of busy …!” a quick glance at me as she throws a small, blue toy for the boxer, ”there you go, Punch! Yeah, I’ve got another lot before lunchtime. And these characters have to get settled back in their homes first. Each of their separate homes,” loud snort of laughter, “then two walks this afternoon.”
“Two separate groups?”
“You really love dogs …”
“Oh, yeah. Eventually I’ll have room to board them, hopefully, as well. And do dog training – the full works. My long term plan.” The collie snatches at the boxer’s blue toy.
“Hey, Johnno!” She whips it from within an inch of his snapping jaws – lightning reflexes. Then changes the subject with barely a blink, “One of my regulars won’t be there, though, I think … today. He’s been getting worse with his bone cancer and I think I won’t see him again.”
She says this in a straightforward, matter-of-fact tone.
We’ve reached the park gates. Much jolly, yet efficient putting on of leads. Chirpy joking from her, as the dogs jostle for attention. Quite a logistical exercise in itself. She has a lovely manner with them, fun, affectionate, with a strand of understated firmness. They’re all looking pretty pleased with the world – they sure struck lucky today.
The troupe makes its way purposefully towards her waiting van. Her brightly coloured dress is just visible above the white, grey, brindle and brown of the dogs’ coats and the perpetual wagging of six tails.
© Carol Rowlands 2009