Tuesday 10 May 2016

Dogs and friendship

A few weeks ago I persuaded my friend Emma to join me on an organised dog walk to raise funds for the Red Cross. "Will it be very doggy?" she asked hesitantly, after agreeing to accompany me. "Oh no," I assured her, "it's more of a charity thing really." (I should mention that Emma is not a dog lover, preferring to admire the canine form from afar - at a 100 yards if possible. She puts up with my own Labrador Pickle, but only because she is my friend.)

"Did someone say dog biscuit?"
So this morning we set off for our appointed meeting place in the rain. "Shame about the weather," we murmured, "oh well, never mind, we'll survive!" (and all those other inanities one mutters to show fearlessness in the face of the British weather system).

We arrived at the village hall - a.k.a. start of the walk - amongst a twirling, whirling pack of dogs. "Slightly more doggy than I anticipated," I said to Emma, by way of an apology, as we picked our way through multiple Labradors, golden retrievers, a couple of pugs, various terriers and a Cockerpoo. Pickle, it must be said, was in doggy heaven, careering around the garden in a sea of fur.

Undaunted, Emma set off with the rest of us, smiling bravely as a clutch of Labrador owners launched into an in-depth discussion of the breed. "Which one is yours?" someone asked her. "Oh no, I am just here with my friend and her dog," she answered, before adding gamely: "But I often go for walks with her and Pickle though." 

In the distance, four or five black Labs tore up the turf, plunged into the Thames and then proceeded to distribute high-velocity, river water over everyone in their vicinity. We wondered if we had broken a record for the most black Labradors in a single spot.

"Watch out!" I called a few yards later, trying to shield Emma as 90 kilos worth of damp Labradors charged towards us before skidding to a halt in unison. "Well, this is fun!" I added, while the rain dribbled down the backs of our necks.

Actually, it was rather fun! As these occasions often are, when you combine British eccentricity with exercise and a dose of abysmal weather. We returned drenched and happy to the village hall for flapjacks, coffee and a free dog biscuit. "Oh look," remarked Emma mildly, "the dog biscuits are in a bowl next to the flapjacks."

As we munched our buttery flapjacks at tables adorned with red-check tablecloths, I felt a flood of warmth towards my friend. All around us wet, smelly dogs were pelting around the hall, crazed by the possibility of hoovering up a stray crumb of cake. Every so often, one would push past us, soaking our legs in the process, or lunge at the table to reach some unattended food. Throughout it all, Emma managed to keep a smile on her face right up until we got back in the car, at which point we both subsided into giggles.

Pickle takes to his bed after all the excitement
"Next time I'm bringing Rover," she said.


"My imaginary dog, Rover. If I occasionally call and whistle for him, no one would know."

Next time! She'd be willing to go through it all again. Now that's true friendship for you.

The Red Cross, known for its high-profile work in disaster zones overseas, is also present in almost every community across the UK. The charity helps people to deal with local and individual crises they’re facing, including, for example, a house fire that leaves a family on the street with nothing, or a flood that devastates a whole community. 

For more information on the Red Cross Dog Walks, click on the Facebook page. Another walk is promised in September.

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