There's more to being a dog-walker, than simply walking dogs. (An extract from 'Damp Dogs & Rabbit Wee,' by Cee Tee Jackson.
I was with three dogs, all from the same household: Ozzie, a bouncy, athletic and energetic bearded collie cross; Gem, a lovely-natured little Staffordshire bull terrier; and Sam, a rather overweight, but ultra-sociable Cairn terrier whose short, stumpy legs struggle to keep his belly from trailing the ground.
In a country park, high in the hills that overlook Paisley and Glasgow, we were following our regular route. As normal, I checked each field for sheep and cattle before entering. Except, on this occasion the cattle were not apparent from the entrance and were actually ensconced in an obscured dip, around a bend.
The three dogs were off-lead and slightly ahead of me as they charged through the open ground. Well, Ozzie and Gem, at least – Sam was mooching his way around as usual, searching for scraps of discarded picnic food and leaving his scent-mark on just about every raised tuft of grass that he passed.
I knew something was wrong the instant all three stopped what they were doing and stood still. Gem threw me a look from over her shoulder which I loosely translated as:
“We’ve got a problem …”
Confronting us now, and quickly rising to their feet, were about twenty cows. Worse — they each had their young with them.
I returned Gem’s look, hoping she’d interpret it as:
“Keep calm, and walk slowly towards the woods.”
At least in there, I reckoned, the cattle would have no room to charge us, and if we were seen to be walking away from them, hopefully they’d realise we intended no harm to their calves.
The most vociferous of the herd was by now no more than four metres from me. She was snorting and stamping her front hooves on the ground. The others were becoming more animated and vocal as they circled us. I shot a look towards the wooded area, some fifty metres away.
The alarmed baying of the group in front of us had alerted a splinter-herd, who had been resting-up in the shade of the very same woods.
Gem slowly turned her head towards me, a quizzical look on her face. I think she was saying:
“What now, wise-guy?”
‘What now?’ indeed.
Well, Ozzie, being of nimble foot, had already made himself scarce and scarpered towards the bottom end of the field. Gem, ever so trusting, was still awaiting instruction.
Sam, completely unaware of any possible danger, decided he’d like to make friends with the cattle. This was not helping, at all.
A car stopped on the road that bisects the park, and the driver came to the fence around a hundred metres away. From his vantage point, down the slope from where we were cornered, he could see a gap forming in the herd. He shouted to me and pointed to where we should run.
And run we did – Gem close by my side.
It was, as I’d read in magazine articles, ‘every man and dog for themselves,’ as we, the faithful Gem and myself, raced through the break in formation. Sam, however was still dithering around with his new ‘pals.’
“Come on Sam” I hollered. “BISCUITS!”
That did the trick. His little legs were a blur as he tried to catch up, more afraid of missing out on a treat than the danger of being trampled and kicked to death by an irate cow or two.
We quickly reached the sanctuary of the road, where Ozzie was waiting:
“What kept you?” I could imagine him panting.