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Dog Walkers, by Carol Rowlands





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There they are. Making their way purposefully along the edge of the park, over by the fence. See? The lady with the hat and the green coat, big collar. See the little black dog? He’s seventeen, you know.

I don’t see them often. I don’t come here every day. When I do catch a glimpse of them in the distance, my heart does a little celebratory flip.

Shall I tell you what I know about them? It won’t take long. The lady’s name is Hazel. You only need to engage in about twenty seconds’ worth of desultory conversation with her to feel that she’s right there on your wavelength, or, to get it the correct way round, you’re on hers. Today, for instance, I start the ball rolling. “Hi, George is looking in good fettle today!”

“Hmm. His old knees appreciate this sunshine.” She shoots a wry glance my way as she pauses for breath. “He’s very keen this morning. Bit of an opportunist.” She smiles knowingly at him. “Getting more so every day, it seems to me.”

She deftly taps a small bit of wood at our feet with her walking stick. George makes a spurt to where it’s landed a few yards away, picks it up, then drops it.

“Can’t be bothered,” she observes, as she resumes her walk. “Go on, George, what was I just saying …?” She has the twinkliest eyes you can imagine, and turns them towards me again, “Can’t let him off the hook, you know … he doesn’t thank me, but he should!”

I would estimate Hazel’s age to be somewhere in her early to mid eighties. She walks stiffly but ably and has sufficient strength and energy for at least one slow circuit of this broad area of the park. She always seems to favour the tufted grass by the fence, rather than the path, which seems deliciously unconventional, in a tiny way. Did she have a rebellious streak when she was a younger woman? Has she still?

“He’s getting old. He’s bound to be slowing down a little bit, I’ve noticed it. I have to chivvy him sometimes, even to come out here.”

“Great for his age, though.”

“Yes, he is.” Another pause for breath. “He’s a funny old thing, though. My daughter’s dog, really, but somehow he ended up with me.”

I look down at George. He’s a crossbreed. At a rough guess perhaps it could be cocker spaniel crossed with … a spaniel-cross, maybe! Black and curly, and rather on the scruffy side. His eyes are cloudy, and quite a lot of grey is coming in on his muzzle and around his eyes and tail. He has a slight limp though I can’t detect which leg it’s in. Nevertheless, he’s got a real vitality: difficult to explain, but it’s something to do with the enthusiasm of his nose. He’s still keen to explore his surroundings, scent-wise. As long as that capacity is in place, then life can’t be bad for a dog, I reckon.

I find myself hoping against hope that he’ll carry on for years. Years and years. Of course, he can’t. I shove my mind in another direction.

“Sometimes I bully him, you know.” Naughty smile at the corner if her mouth. “Well, that, or he bullies me. Not sure which it is.”

There they go. Just making their way down towards the park gate.


© Carol Rowlands 2009





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