Sunday, 6 March 2011

Outward bound......

During a recent moment of madness I decided to spend three hours walking in February with the Hounds. Couple of issues here. I walk the hounds for a least an hour everyday. They also go out for 15 minutes every morning for a short walk. In our house we refer to this as going for a "piss n' sniff." You cannot really describe it as a 'walk' as, a) we have to drag the hounds off the settee to go out and b) they spend the entire 15 minutes looking for reasons why they should not complete the 200 yard yomp. These include feigning illness and or a limp to simply lying down on the pavement hoping someone will call the RSPCA. 

Undeterred I decided to go the whole hog and packed a rucksack with a flask, water and a couple of biscuits for the hounds. Waterproof leggings, coat, hat and gloves completed the natty ensemble. Driving to a particularly secluded area of the South Downs I released the hounds into the wilderness. Well, the car park initially. It was wet, it was foggy and it was bloody freezing.  They looked at me like I had just told them they were going without biscuits for a week. Lewis tried unsuccessfully to join a family in their marvellously clean and posh Audi, Monty walked back to our car and began pawing the rear doors. I could see they were keen. After apologising to Mr Audi for Lewis leaving dirty paw marks on his small child secured safely on the back seat of the Audi, I ushered both hounds toward the unknown. taking confidently to a well worn path we all set off into the unknown. The fog got thicker, the rain got heavier. I stopped for a coffee from the flask.The hounds got a couple of dog biscuits and we were all happy.

Having the hounds off the lead makes for a much happier and adventurous walk.I don;t have to worry about 17 year olds with Staffies called 'Rambo' (see earlier episode) and or gormless pet owners who have no control at all over their mutts. It also allows the hounds a degree of freedom on which route we take. This usually involves them following anything that looks like a well trodden route and would not result in them receiving dirty paws and or nasty thistles. Wandering off into the wilderness I realised after about an hour that I may not actually be on a footpath. What my hounds were actually following was a cattle path. The local herd wandered down to the water hole via the straightest route usually followed meekly by the rest of the herd. On this occasion followed meekly by two Bassets and me. I knew this for two reasons. Firstly it was quite clear this 'path' led to a fence without 'styles,' secondly as the mist cleared 73 cows were staring at us. I knew that there was some statistic in the UK that said X amount of people were killed by cows every year. It was the staring that got me. The staring and the sweat coming off them, oh and the coughing. That coughing,it sounded like the old drunk in your local. My dad is a retired Policeman. In his early detective days they targeted a local arsonist setting fire to barns. Surrounding a local barn following a tip off ( undoubtedlty disguised as hay bales or trees) they were drawn to someone coughing in the vicinity of the building. A charge was mounted and a dozen suit wearing detectives pounced on the suspect. Or should I say suspects. All 27 of them. All Fresian cows.
This lot looked at the hounds. There was also a leader...oh yes the big brown one. He was the leader. He (or in fact she) looked at the hounds.
" We must sniff them."
"Yes master we must sniff them."
73 cows approach us on mass. Me and the two Bassets leg it. I tried to remember when you are chased by a bear whether to run or stop and make yourself really big. I know ..these aren't bears. Sadly it was the only thing I could remember from Discovery Channel. I decided that you should run. The Bassets had other ideas. yes we would run, then walk then stop then look at the pursuing cows. Exhausted we reached a barbed wire fence where I hauled nine stone of Basset over and onto safe ground. Hauling myself over I collapsed panting onto the wet grass. My bovine posse stopped pausing briefly to drop a few pats and wander off.

Lewis was by now completely knackered. His head was dropped and he adopted his slow plod that I knew meant he was beat. I allowed them to follow what was clearly a public path back to civilisation. Some while later I realised that my twenty five quid (each) extend-able dog leads were still lying in the wet grass where I had made good my escape. I looked at Lewis & Monty. There was simply no way that I could make them walk back to get them. They were on their chin straps.

This did however present some problems. They were not exactly Crufts obedience champions. If I called them to me they would probably ignore me and mooch off to eat some horse poo they had found. If I came across Staffie brigade and or other nasty canine, they would just be eaten. Finally they have absolutely NO road sense and would walk out in front of the first car they saw. What would Ray Mears do?

Armed with my machete ( well I say machete I actually mean small pen knife), I found a length of bailing plastic wrapped around an old fence post. Hacking it off  I fashioned a 'double dog lead' which I duly attached to the hounds. We emerged in the car park. All soaked, all muddy. I had cow pat on my jacket and the hounds were actually emitting steam. They were tied to what was effectively bright orange string and were tied together. I could see people snatching their kids up and locking car doors. We  walked on tarmac routes for the next week.........

PS. If anyone finds my dog leads .....!