Tue, 21st Mar 2017 | Geoparkartist | 1,525 Views.

Springers are so darn springy

Friday 10th March

The dogs have found a ball. It is not a good ball but it can still do its job, with a little help from its friends. Only one of its hollow orbs is still intact, while the other droops sad and deranged. Grey, bald and disabled, the ball is still able to provoke wonder In the dogs, sparking off a major ball hunt. How many journey's has this ball had and what event sent it into a sorry spiral?

I bring my arm back and the two dogs poise to dive. Enjoying the competitive edge of having Jasper here, my dog Ghyllie is up for the chase. I hurl the ball overarm through the trees, to a landing spot in the leaf-mold hidden from view. Is it behind holly, stump, rise? The dogs race each other to arrive first, to grab their prize, hurtle home to me on the path above. In between throws we progress along the path and this adds a dimension to the game. Sometimes when I throw the dogs must jump down a precipitous bank or cross the path and on downhill among the trees. The dogs are fast but despite it's age the ball is faster. Who will get there first? I plump for Ghyllie, he's fast, experienced and competitive. Squirrel like Jasper jumps after him, flagging the air with his bouncy tail. Springers are so darn springy. While the dogs search and rescue the ball I stand and listen to the woods. Each day it seems the chorus is louder, more varied, more sonorous. A pigeon on a high branch cocks its head to see what is going with us on the forest floor. The dogs enjoy their search, sometimes one, sometimes the other locating the ball in its camouflaged nest.

Ghyllie circles a patch of brambles, dives in to grab the precious ball. Then with the considerable power of his muscly thighs he climbs against gravity to the path followed by Jasper. As Ghyllie grows tired, Jasper is coming in again and again to fill the gap, finding the ball bringing it to up to me. Here he comes racing hard, to stand some distance away ball prey in mouth, panting. I praise him and prise his mouth open and it spirals out to slip more slime than ball, into my grasp. Despite their energy the dogs will finally lose interest and the ball will lie forgotten in a hollow. Now we follow footprints carved into this woodland track to find the open meadows of Preston Down. A doggy paradise, with panoramic views over the bay. I stop to wonder at the biggest tree, a Monterray pine with tangled roots as fat and wrinkled as elephents trunks. A cement plaque taps off a hollow, above and around which the tree is charcoal black. Flowers have been placed on the tree roots below it and I wonder in that moment if the ashes of a loved one are sealed inside the tree. A huge branch has the remains of many rope swings still attached, a holy shrine.

There is only one other dog here here today. A blacklabrador belonging to a man with one eye closed, the other open very wide. His dog is very fat, coat as shiny as oil. The shiny dog bounds towards the dogs, sniffs them lightly and rolls back uphill to the man. We begin our fast walk back to the top of the woods, the muddy track showing trails of bikes, shoes and paws. I imagine it in snow, the same footmarks and bike tracks visible on the path, but studded with tiny paw prints, and the lacy trails of forest dwellers; birds, voles, stoats, and these threaded through by the earthy trails of dogs.

Anna Keleher- walks for active dogs. https://walkerandball.wordpress.com


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