I just came across this 2009 reflection while I was sorting out an old writing folder. I had only been writing semi-seriously for a couple of months when I wrote this. Reading it bought back a lot of memories. We lost Molly last Autumn and we still miss her terribly, but Maisie is still with is and still as energetic, (putting it mildly,) as ever she was.
Molly (Left) Maisie (Right)
Walking around the Rushcliffe Country Park with my dogs is a treat we all enjoy. Molly and Maisie, (my Springer Spaniels,) always manage to make an adventure out of it even on the dullest of days.
My dogs are definitely mind readers. We don’t need to announce that we are ‘going walkies,’ or ‘off to the park,’ they already know, their built in atomic clocks tell them. There is always a mad five minutes as we attempt to fill the water bottle, check for poo bags and get their leads on. Maisie pulls somersaults and Molly scratches the door, while looking over her shoulder at us. Excited yaps fill the air. It’s like Christmas and Birthdays rolled into one, but it happens every day.
I have a small 4×4 car, the backs seats are always folded down and they have their own plastic sheeting to protect the upholstery. Molly likes to look between the two front seats and out through the windscreen to see where we are heading, Maisie prefers the side window. Both are a bundle of pent up energy as they whimper and call for us to hurry up. Molly barks at any other dog or cat we pass on the way, boasting that she is off to the park and they aren’t.
A casual observer would most likely think that we walk Molly on her own, as Maisie is seldom in sight. If you look hard enough you’ll spot her zigzagging through the tall grass, flushing out birds and rabbits while Molly trots happily with us, sniffing the track and its borders to see who’s passed by recently.
It’s a bit like the Wild West with Molly looking after the wagon train, (us,) while Maisie is out on the trails scouting for Indians and bands of robbers. Molly used to do both tasks before we got Maisie, but now she feels her job is to protect us from raiding parties or any ambush that may lie in our path.
Maisie’s scouting mission takes in every inch of the country park. Not a blade of grass goes un-inspected. Everything is thoroughly checked to see if anyone, or, more importantly, anything, has passed that way since the last time she was there.
Every so often she nips back to check that we haven’t been wiped out by a renegade, rabbit raiding party, but once she’s sees we are ok, and that Molly Earp is doing her job, she’s off again in the guise of Maisie Crocket, Indian scout; bouncing through the fields gathering vital information.
The wagon train starts off on a slight slope at the park entrance, just across the road from the boarding kennels on the outskirts of the village. Most nights my girls have to run the gauntlet of jeers and insults hurled at them from the less fortunate, ‘prison camp,’ dogs who jealously howl their frustration at not being able to join us on our quest.
They stay on haltie leads until we are away from the road. After a brisk fifty yard jog up a small incline the park opens up before us. At the top of the rise they are released to pee, poo and brace themselves to face the perils of the badlands.
On either side of the main track are areas of woodland, protected by metre high, wire fences. In places they have been broken down. Some of the damage is caused by wanton vandalism, some by rabbit poachers and courting couples who want to be out of sight of the casual walker.
Maisie spends a lot of time in the woods, but she won’t go in by way of the broken fences, there is no challenge there. She likes to leap. The bigger the fence, the greater the challenge. Many a time her leap has lander her on top of the wire, but she always manages to bounce over into the trees. Once inside she races around like a mad thing. The air is suddenly filled with the cries of birds and the crunching of dead leaves or branches as she thunders around.
Molly isn’t enticed by the call of the woods, or if she is, she doesn’t take up the offer. She stands with us, as we, (patiently at first,) call for Maisie. She can be in the woods for anything up to ten minutes and we don’t know exactly where she will come out. At times she appears a few hundred yards down the track, at other times she will reappear from the same place she entered. Once, we stood calling her for a full ten minutes, only to find her sitting patiently behind us wondering what all the fuss was about.
We aren’t the only walkers to have a problem with leaping dogs. Most nights we come across people standing forlornly near an area of fenced-off woodland, demanding their animal’s immediate return. Treats are offered and encouragement given, then come the threats. Feet are stamped in frustration and arms are waved in exasperation, eventually the owner announces that they, ‘give up.’ This statement is almost always followed by a warning that the absconding dog will be left behind to find its own way home. The offending dog, when it finally decides that it has pushed its luck far enough, is nearly always a Springer. We Spaniel owners have developed a knowing, sympathetic look. Nothing needs to be said.
The walk takes us between fifty minutes and an hour, depending which route we take. At the end of it we produce a stainless steel bowl and the girls have a well deserved drink. When she was younger, Maisie flatly refused to accept that the walk was over for the night. It usually took us an extra fifteen minutes to corner her; even then we almost always had to recruit another dog walker to assist us.
Eventually we adopted a cunning plan. We always took the stainless steel bowl and a bottle of water with us and mid walk we would offer them a drink, Maisie would always be first to accept, so we started to ration the drink at the half way stage and give them a big drink at the finish line. It worked a treat; since then we haven’t had a problem. As soon as the word, ‘drink,’ is mentioned. Maisie trots over from wherever she has been exploring and I clip her lead on while she laps up the water. Molly guards the water bowl while Maisie drinks, then she has a few laps herself and we’re off down the slope to the car.
The journey back home is always quieter. Maisie flops in a heap in the back and Molly assumes an air of superiority by sticking her nose in the air as we drive past the less fortunate dogs who only ever get to walk the streets on a lead every evening.