Thursday, 3 November 2011

1. Of Muddy Fields & Tidal Rivers

Do you remember those puppy days? When a walk to the end of the road was pulling, coaxing, and pirouetting around dog and lead?  At 9 months old Bella has had to adjust to a different household but for the first month she was only allowed 10 minute walks while she was recuperating from a broken leg. But after the all-clear from the vet, the longer walk was a Big Thing! 

7.30am. It was a dull, overcast autumn day, with a cool breezy wind blowing past our faces as we stood patiently in the backyard, waiting for said puppy to stop tearing around the garden and to become calm and submissive before the lead was snapped on – as per The Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan!

She was so good as she walked down familiar tar, smelled familiar bushes, watched with interrupted intensity familiar seagulls in their morning ritual, but soon she got beyond the doggy smells of the lane and into the field where until now she’d only had a whiff of the horse smells. The excitement grew as she started to pull as if she was playing a game of solo tennis! We managed to distract her before a roll in buck droppings, which would have meant banishment from the kitchen bed, and then she quickly learnt the ways of the country stile. She goes under, the lead gets passed under – oops no, she went through the wrong hole – and then human climbs over and retrieves lead - what a palaver!

A distinctly sea, fishy, boat smell keeps her nose close to the ground as we walk single file past the boat yard, with tantalisingly new, albeit yucky, smells mingling about 12 inches from the ground.

For us humans, the sight at the end of the muddy fields and smelly boatyard is the prize of the morning. The sun is just a 40w glow behind dirty white clouds, the air is still, the River Orwell is very, very gently lapping up the slipway and the yachts dotted at anchor sway contentedly. The sight that famous oil paintings are made of!

Bella’s first visit to water – apart from puddles with which she has no problem:   maybe there is no Labrador in her after all! In our human wellies we wade a little way down the slipway to try and coax her to try the healing streams, but apart from her toenails, nothing else is going to intentionally get wet!  Unbeknown to her however, walking four paws through puddles has thrown up muddy splashes to her golden belly, and then like a good puppy, she sits, left leg comfortably tucked under so that her haunches sit fair and square in the muddy puddle!

We are so blessed to have this picturesque spot on our doorstep, and Bella will have many more opportunities to dip her paws into the tidal River Orwell!

Back home, the mud needs to be banished.  Remember those puppy days? Having eventually found the most comfortable spray nozzle that doesn’t make her look like a Springbok in the backyard, she runs off to dry herself under the bushes and to continue the game she thinks we’re playing. Ears up – well perhaps one folded over – she stands on the forbidden not-yet-planted vegetable plot and plops down in that playful pose – and the clean blonde underbelly is magically turned to muddy black underbelly! 

Fortunately she prefers being outside to inside, so humans leave wellies on the doorstep, close the back door and settle down to a warming cup of coffee. Bella will play herself clean – eventually!

(Photo of Barge at Pin Mill by Megan Kelland -

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