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Dog Walkers, by Carol Rowlands





Sample chapters



Gypsy dog


“Gypsy dog, I see!” says the man.

“That’s it,” I reply, “that’s what they say.”

“Ah, well, that’s because it’s true. Four hundred years old, that breed. Irish tinkers had them first. And gypsies, of course. Still do have them.”

It’s mid-evening, and I’m on my way to the letterbox with my dog. She’s on her lead as it’s a main road. Nice excuse to have a quiet little stroll with her, unexciting though the route is.

The man and I have accidentally converged at a street corner, and as it’s a narrow pavement we’re now walking in convoy. I am in front with Rosie. I look over my shoulder. Two little schnauzers are scurrying along beside him, one clipped on to the other, in orderly fashion. They’re neatly manicured and look charming with their major-general eyebrows and beards.

“Cross whippet-lurcher is it?” he continues. “Course, the real lurchers are two thirds greyhound, one third collie. That’s the proper mix for a lurcher. Emphasis on the sighthound, you see. Got to see their prey in the distance … rabbits and so on. Pheasants, if you’re not careful. Ever gone in for hare-coursing?”

“Err, no, she’s caught a few rabbits but …” trying to project my voice backwards.

“Born thieves, you see, that’s the meaning of the name lurcher – “lur” for thief, you see. Romany word.” He speaks slowly and deliberately.

We’ve arrived at the letterbox and the man pauses while I post my letter.

On we go.

“Your two are cute, are they related?”

“Don’t know about cute, they’re tough little so-and-sos. Yes, mother and son. Now there’s another old breed, German, obviously. Hunters, too. Very hardy.” There’s a drabness to his tone.

My dog Rosie stops abruptly for a sniff at somebody’s gatepost. The whole party swerves to a halt.

“The most important thing of all to a dog, the nose,” he says. “Their noses tell them absolutely everything they need to know.”

“Mm …”

“Their noses are two thousand times more sensitive than our noses.”


“One thousand receptors, you see. We’ve only got a few hundred. Can tell the whole history of someone. How long ago they were in that spot, what gender they were, whether they were ill or healthy …”

“I suppose that’s why they’re used by police …” I yell over my shoulder.

“Ah, well, dogs were used by humans thousands of years ago, you know. And the Romans used them in their battles, and it went on from there. Our police are just the tail end of the line.”

“Marvellous, though …”

“Costs the taxpayer six thousand pounds to train a police dog, you know. Six thousand. At least. But you’ve got to realise, the number of tasks they perform is quite phenomenal. It’s not just pouncing on thieves and sniffing out drugs these days, you know.”

We arrive at another corner.

“Here’s my turn-off,” he says. “Oh, all right then, a bit further, eh, you two?”

“Well, it’s nice out here,” I contribute.

“Yes, evening walks: best of the day. You know, we really ought to be going hell-for-leather and making ourselves puffed out. What it does is increase the heart rate…”

It’s getting quite dark now, and the humdrum voice coming through the gloom from behind me is faintly surreal.

“… so everything benefits, right? Your heart and liver and kidneys and what-not, they all get more nutrients and more oxygen. And your lungs. You see, it’s the blood sugars and …”

My frantically searching eyes alight upon a lane across the road. Short cut home.

No traffic.

Over I go, calling, “Well, good to chat … ’night then!”

As I turn down the lane, I look back across the road. Ahead of my schnauzer man is a bus stop, where one optimistic would-be passenger sits waiting patiently on the wooden slatted seat. On her knees rests a large, elegant potted plant. A fig, is it?

The man pauses as he reaches her. I can almost hear him draw breath.

He knows.


© Carol Rowlands 2009





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