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Dog Walkers, by Carol Rowlands





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A Spray of Blue Petals


Bold, flamboyant flower beds adorn one particular corner of my local park. Manicured but extravagant. The colours are dazzling on this bright July morning. Cobalt delphiniums vie with flame gladioli for pride of place, whilst around their stems a mass of white alyssum spreads like a tide to meet the neatly described edges of the grass.

Odd, then, that there’s no sign ordering us to keep our “Dogs On Leads”. Very trusting, these park-keepers.

Shame, that, because, bounding towards the beautifully sculpted, kidney-shaped bed to my left, is a sparky young weimaraner. Each of his long, rubbery legs seems to have a life of its own, but they’re all carrying him unstoppably right into that poised array of colours.

“Oh Lord,” murmurs his hapless owner. She’s a smallish woman, mid-forties, perhaps.

Smiling uncertainly, she hesitates some yards away before stepping tentatively towards the emerging catastrophe.

“Uh – Willow? Willow? Come on now. Could you come here, please? Uh, Willow?” Her voice is barely raised. She could be conversing in a dentist’s waiting room.

“Shall I help you to get him off there?” I shout. “They’re incredibly lively, these, aren’t they? Ha, there he goes again! Ooh dear… Not the easiest breed of dog to grab hold of.”

“Mm,” she agrees, vaguely. “He’s quite strong. He’s done this before.”

“Woah …!” I can’t help yelping, as quantities of vivid pink pelargoniums hit the deck. But now he’s already rootling amongst some thrilling, starburst dahlias. Well, they were.

The woman is perched at the edge of the flower bed, as though it were a deep pond harbouring something mortally terrifying.

I’ve waded in, so to speak, and I finally manage to grab successfully at Willow’s collar, only briefly losing my balance (to the detriment of some nearby yellow chrysanthemums) as he lunges violently to the right, my hand still attached.

Now the woman is daring to put one foot gingerly on to the flower bed, and together we wrestle the beautiful vandal to some kind of steadiness. She loops the lead over his head, and holds on for dear life.

We’re both laughing, slightly edgily, as we try to resume a modicum of composure.

“That was worse than last time he got going,” she says, with only the merest hint of fretfulness in her tone. Rather, a genuine interest. Almost awe. A little exhaustion in the mix, too, though, I detect.

“Well, I suppose they’re pretty full of energy these dogs, aren’t they ,” I mutter, “especially at this age. Very sensitive, too, and highly strung.” I’m trying not to state the obvious.

“Oh really? Well, he can be rather difficult sometimes. I haven’t had one of these before. The whole thing is new to me.”

She’s smoothing her hand across his head, extricating a small blue flower from his ear as she goes. His exotic amber eyes look intently into her face. Suddenly he launches into a vigorous body shake, the mysterious silver grey of his coat rippling, showering us with a spray of blue petals.

“I’ve only ever had cats,” she volunteers. I had been starting to wonder. “Someone told me the other day that these are actually hunting dogs.” Her little frown tells me she’s still assimilating this particular nugget of information.

I catch her eye, and we simultaneously look across at the kidney-shaped flower bed. There’s quite a lot to look at.

Her face is just cracking into a rueful smile when Willow decides to pull away from her with an almighty lurch. Still gripping the lead, she vaults off three feet behind him, half turning to call over her shoulder to me, “I’m sure I’ll learn!”

At precisely that moment her toe unfortunately catches on the two-inch step leading up to the neat, gravelled patio area.


© Carol Rowlands 2009





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