Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Dog Day Sunday's

When individual weekend commitments allow I walk with a good friend. His dog and my two are all of a similar age and seem, in a doggy sort of way, to rub along very well with each other. In fact I find it rare that dogs accompanying their human charges take umbrage or offense at each other. Just occasionally, very occasionally, there is the canine monster with clearly psychotic tendencies, but such encounters are unusual because their human companions are generally alert to the potential for bloodshed and sensibly, in such circumstances we keep away from each other.
A decidedly un-psychotic dog!

A characteristic of this doggy paradise is that there are actually very few other dogs, in fact the chances of meeting other human charges (let alone their dogs) are, I calculate, 1 in 10. This is due to the fact that it is a tough and steep climb to get to the expanse of veldt on top of the Sibebe massif. Small wonder then that the boys and I are up and at it in glorious isolation most weekends, climbing and exploring the veldt, the rocks and the incredible stands of pristine indigenous vegetation.
A lone - but not I think lonely - feral horse

Another characteristic of this space is the significant population of cows and the occasional feral horses. The cows are in the main a fairly sanguine lot, often initially suspicious but generally accepting of one or two human charges accompanying their dogs. Seth and Hamlet will trot past the wickedly sharpened horns of the Nguni cross bovines without so much as a glance in their direction, and every time they do I feel a warm glow of pride at their restraint, especially as I know that their DNA is subliminally shrieking at them to "herd, herd, herd!"
An abundance of cows
From this you will have deduced that another characteristic of this space is that human charges are not on leads, and that they, and of course the dogs are free to roam without that annoying pull on aching arms (not to mention choking necks). I once saw, at a distance, a small family group; four in number if I remember correctly, one of whom was tethered to a placid looking yellow Labrador, or Retriever or similar posh and sophisticated hound which was no doubt the product of an exclusive and expensive private education.
"What the hell", I thought, "is this animal thinking of?"
"Let the people free", I felt like shouting.
"Let them roam and run in random directions," I thought, loudly and indignantly.
"Give yourself space to soak up the amazing aromas abounding in this landscape, for they are surely magic!" 
The boys looked sadly in the general direction of the sorry group and forged ahead with noses to the track, hoovering up aromas of such sophistication and fascination that they beggar description.

Water stop

Needless to say it is not always paradise in Arcadia.

Only the other day I was striding through a dispersed herd of cows, walking towards a diminutive calf that looked cute enough to cuddle.

Behind me I became aware of a beast that was not as sanguine or as placid as its masticating companions. In fact it distinguished itself from its fellow grazers by stopping grazing in a threatening sort of way, and then charging me in a very aggressive sort of way. The dogs, by now well in front of me by some 20 metres, stopped and turned with the air of an audience mildly interested in seeing what might transpire next; rather than two healthy dogs whose instinct, let alone duty, should have been protection of their human charge.

In the face of half a tonne of trotting un-marinaded beef I raised the point of my trekking pole to a horizontal defensive position, placed my weight on my rear leg, balletically pushed my best foot forward, braced my body, and calmed and cleared my mind of extraneous and distracting emotions. From this perfect statuesque stance of oneness I engaged the fevered eye of the angry beast, and turned swiftly and fled towards the nearest assemblage of rocks that I guessed could not be scaled by even the most limber of cows. Still at a safe distance the dogs observed this tactical cowardice with interest.

I'm still not sure if this was a horny heifer or a young bull with attitude. My now fading memory has it that the undercarriage of the beast was udder-less thus rendering my strategic retreat probably a sensible move.

A terrible case of canine posturing against a painted sky.
Mostly the dogs are the only real time walking companions I need, but there are times when their canine habits do becomes a little annoying. Often their foibles only become truly evident after the walk is over and we have returned home, and the kitchen, living room, TV room - in fact every room that the dogs are temporarily inhabiting is smelling like a sibaya (cattle byre).

Just occasionally I manage to forestall this unacceptable behaviour. After a long walk with the painted man and his tribe, returning through and round the four giant marbles I admonish the dogs - and to my surprise they obey my masterful commands as Hamlet starts to eat with guilty relish a new cow pat - "No!" I snap; and as Seth contemplates rubbing his neck in an adjoining pile of ordure - "No!" I order. Judging from the colour and texture of the newly formed skin on the cow shit it is only an hour of two old, just ripe enough to be irresistible to a dog but to have long term odiferous consequences in a pristine and well ordered indoor human world.

"Are we nearly there yet?"

However, when all is said and done, there can be no better walking companions than two alert dogs whose appreciation of the immediate scented earth is complementary to mine of the painted skies and landscape. Each of us enjoys our excursions and adventures. None of us really understand what the others appreciate, but I sense we all know that, and it doesn't really matter.

Fellow walkers - not getting too concerned about what blows each others hair (or fur) back.


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