|(This isn't the 'long grass field' but the farmer's newly planted field above Pin Mill!)|
Wednesday, 11 April 2012
15. Just Bella!
So I drew the short straw and did the early morning walk today; thankfully the seasons have changed, the clocks have changed, resulting in a 6.30am walk being in daylight and not icy cold!
Bella was extremely hyper along the puddle littered path (from yesterdays bucket downpour at supper time!), so I switch from the flexi-lead to the ‘short lead’ and we’re both a little more comfortable except that Bella knows she needs to ‘go’, and soon! We pass the village playing fields with all the bunnies rushing around - without a hitch (told you the ‘go’ urge was urgent!) and at the edge of the ‘long grass’ field I switch her back to the flexi-lead – well, I thought it’d clipped on! While I’m left standing with two leads in my hand and the trigger-clip dangling, Bella rushes off into the small field of overgrown grass, nettles, brambles and other unidentifiable weeds. I was very grateful for that urgent ‘go’ instinct and caught up with her on the squat! It’s a world-wide accepted fact that Shiba Inu dogs can not be let off lead – if you want them back that is!
As we walk through the middle of the field on a fading tractor track, two dog owners silently raise a hand in morning greeting across the long grass, hoping our dogs are small enough and the grass long enough to conceal their presence from each other. It works!
Alongside the wood the blue-tits, chaffinches and robins post their morning tweets, black-headed seagulls hoarsely try to keep their class in order, pigeons yawn or snore in the trees, and the pheasant tinnily shrieks as he manoeuvres imaginary morning traffic in the farmer’s fields. The blackbird sings deceptively sweetly as he teases Bella by hopping just out of reach along the edge of the path!
Bella and I continue on towards the sun which rose just 90 minutes earlier over the incredibly beautiful Pin Mill and Orwell River. As we pass the fences of the yacht club, Bella stops, and her ‘pretty’ face (something everyone comments on when they see her) takes on a slightly dreamy, wistful haze, as maybe she remembers 'The Wednesday' she spent among the yachts – on her own!
The crunch of pebbles underfoot introduces new terrain and Bella’s excitement soars again as she bounces from the muddy low tide river-bed to the clear water of the Grindle ('a man-assisted stream running into the river'), until we turn towards the river along the Hard ('the concreted area that leads from the land to the estuary') which is still wet and muddy from an earlier high tide. The view from the Hard is spectacular any time of day, but especially early in the morning with the sun drowning the houseboats alongside the Butt & Oyster Inn, and flashing the reflective surfaces of the yachts at anchor in the river. Bella enjoys this too and although she fixates on the seagulls sitting high on the poles as they shout confused orders to their underlings flying chaotically over land and skimming the calm water’s surface, she doesn’t attempt to chase any of them! I could stay here all day! Bella seems to know that this is the goal of our walk and that we’ll be returning the same way soon. Her excitement levels off and we slowly head for home, with Bella no longer so anxious to get ‘somewhere’!
Understanding the Shiba characteristics in Bella has given us a better idea of how to handle her on walks. She never goes off-lead and it’s quite normal for her not to respond at all to commands – although indoors she’s as obedient as a dog-angel! There are times, however, when she’s feeling a little kindly towards us and my “Come” command will be rewarded with a Sit, about 20m away on the end of the lead. However, a “Sit” command will rarely be obeyed and no cajoling or gentle pushing (or firm pushing) on her rear end will make her sit properly. Sometimes I’ll get a Squat – ‘You said Sit and my bottom is almost on the ground and this is as far as I’m going!’ “No” is simply a distraction command to turn her away from licking horse pooh to pouncing on an invisible mouse in the grass (it must be invisible because I’ve seen the size of mice and rats around here and there’s no way they couldn’t be seen alongside our path!) “This Way” is a command I use often and she generally listens as I think she’s learnt from experience that if she doesn’t go ‘This Way’ she’ll probably get tangled in a bush or be on the wrong side of a tree! And of course there are times when the brain is Shiba and the body language is Staffie! That's the fun of having a cross-breed!
It’s the last stretch of the walk home; she’s calmer and now’s the time to try some sort of disciplined training to walk next to me – “Heel” hasn’t worked for me. I’d picked up a branch earlier from the wood and by holding it in front of her and at her neck, she walks calmly alongside me – while trying to dodge underneath at any accidental opportunity! It works for me and maybe one day we won’t need the stick. Maybe. One day!
With most of her excitable energy drained, she’s happy to be close to home. She walks with confidence and satisfaction, until at the corner of our house a two-foot high, extremely snotty-nosed, hyper, unafraid, noisy human child faces her! At this point Bella takes one look and cowers behind me, desperate to escape from the "Danger"!
Danger past – after an agonising five minutes of chat – it’s home to breakfast and bed – I chatted, Bella wants breakfast and bed. Actually breakfast and bed after a 75 minute walk before 8am sounds a good idea………………….