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Dog Walkers, by Carol Rowlands





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Eyes in the back of my head!


“I don’t know what you think you’re up to, Mitzi, I do not know. Get yourself over here, now, there’s a good girl. Keep close. Keep close, Mitzi.”

There’s no-one nearby, but I do see a woman about a hundred yards away. And hear her. Clear as a bell.

“Mitzi, I said keep closer. Now! Tolly! Tolly-boy, you’re going to get yourself all tangled up in that wire … you are. Toll. Toll.”

This herder of dogs has one hell of a pair of lungs. Put it this way, on a sinking raft in a raging storm, lifeboat bobbing on the distant horizon, hers is the set of vocal chords you’d pay your last dollar to enlist.

“I told you to be careful, Toll, you daft thing, you. Got yourself in a right state, haven’t you … Ben! Ben! No, Ben. No Ben!

She’s the proud walker of four, or possibly five, assorted small dogs, which are scattered randomly around her. Shi-tzus, jack russells, a pug? Now that we’re a bit closer I can confirm that she really is on her own with them, no one else a party to the conversation. And it is a conversation. Conducted with the volume turned up.

“You should go over there with Ben, Tolly-Toll. Go on, go on. I said go on. Go on. Sort him out. I haven’t got eyes in the back of my head.” If she had she would possibly see a tall, country-looking gent, tweed trilby, waterproof waistcoat and chunky walking boots, moving up parallel to her and her gang, over to her right. His graceful black setter is gallivanting in the vicinity.

“You shouldn’t have that coat on today, Chloe, it’s not cold enough for that coat. Come here, Chloe. Let’s get that coat off you. Chloe! Chloe, come here and let’s deal with that wretched coat. Chloe, come on, luvvey. You’re too warm in that great big muffler.”

You would swear she was talking to a companion. A rather recalcitrant child, perhaps. Or several of them. The pitch and incessant nature of the dialogue is quite mesmerising. She hasn’t actually cast a look in my direction yet, and I guess hasn’t caught sight of me or my dog.

“Leave it! Leave it alone. No, Ben. No, Ben. No, Ben. Leave it!” Her razor-like baritone would cut ice. The “it” in question is the black setter, towards whom Ben is scuttling excitedly, machine-like chippy barks emanating from his flat little face.

Suddenly there’s a pause in the running commentary. The whole area at once seems ridiculously silent and ordinary. Punctuated by the odd “uff! uff!” from Ben. The tweedy man has come into her view.

“Morning!” he intones with reserved courtesy as he passes by her. I can see her clearly, giving a surprisingly shy smile in response as she murmurs, “Hello” almost inaudibly.

I decide I won’t prolong her self-imposed quiet by pressing on towards her, so I veer off along another path instead.

About thirty silent seconds elapse. It’s almost as if the entire ensemble has been magicked into thin air. All at once a familiar, penetrating sound bursts forth.

“I told you to stop doing that, Mitzi. I say, Mitzi. Mitzi! Be good. We haven’t even got half way yet, have we? Eh, Mitzi, come on over with us. It’s not your teatime yet, so leave that alone. Leave that alone, Mitzi, and come along and behave nicely with all the rest of us!”

The family proceeds over the rise and out of sight. I can still hear them.


© Carol Rowlands 2009





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