The advantages of a borrowed dog

I am very much a dog person (and very much not a cat person). Many of my friends express themselves frankly astonished that I don't have a dog. “What? You don't have a dog?” they express. “I am frankly astonished!” But dogs are a huge commitment, and I'm far from sure I'm prepared to take on such a commitment. My loss, I guess.

Over the last week, I've been looking after somebody else's dog. I've looked after her before. She's a nice dog, but a bit useless to be honest. We think she must have been mistreated by her previous owners. She's the most nervous dog imaginable. It usually takes her the entire week to get used to me, by which time it's time for her to go home and we have to start again from scratch next time. This time, thank goodness, she settled in a bit quicker. She's still as nervous as hell—every email alert bleep from my iPhone sends her shooting out of the room in blind panic [it just happened again, as I typed those very words]—but at least she'll come to me when I call her now, which makes letting her off the lead on walks less of a courageous decision.

Rosie on the horse track

So, I've been taking the dog—let's give her a name: Rosie—out for walks each day for the last week. I'm not sure if I can trust her on the Moor, so I've worked out a few new circular walks around the local lanes and footpaths. With this week's unseasonable mid-summer heatwave, I've been taking Rosie out first thing in the morning, and in the early evenings, in a futile attempt to avoid the worst of the heat.

Rosie on Burlee's Lane

One thing I hadn't really appreciated before, when walking dogs in the countryside—especially early in the day—is just how much more you can end up seeing. Partly because you're out walking at a different time of day, but mostly because you have a second pair of low-level eyes, and a sense of smell second to none at your disposal. Had I not been walking Rosie this week, I still would not know about the local weasels' nest in a drainage pipe feeding into the ditch at the side of the track just below my house. Nor would I have spotted the dead mole in the nearby wood. Nor my first ever Hebden Bridge fox, starring out at us from the tall grass (this is sheep country: foxes are very rare). And I would almost certainly have trodden on my first ever wood tiger moth, sunning itself on the tarmac of the unadopted track a couple of hundred metres above the house.

Wood tiger moth
Wood tiger moth (Parasemia plantaginis)

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a borrowed dog to walk.

Richard Carter is a writer and photo­grapher living in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.WebsiteFacebookTwitterNewsletterBooks

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