The round walk takes us eastwards, steeply down the valley, across the creek, northwards up the spur of a similarly steep hill - first brightly grassed meadows, then rocky, along a densely wooded glade, and finally across the tops through long grass to come westwards back to The Grange. It takes about 35 minutes and involves some quite puffing and climbing. The last few times we did this one, I noticed Chicco lagging behind, hugging the easier slopes and panting heavily in any sunshine. She liked to lie in the creek, and was reticent about coming out to walk up the hill... Towards the end of the walk she was labouring, panting, and uncomfortable. She had to stop, and sometimes she had to just lie down. It was just getting too much for her.
She's nearly 13. That's 91 in Dog Years, which is old ... especially for such a large breed. Also, it's a long and loving time to have a fairly constant companion animal in your life.
So, this morning, even though Chicco's ears pricked when I picked up my walking boots, I pretended I was just brushing some dirt off them. I snuck out the back, whispering for Radha to come, so as not to hurt Chicco's feelings.We left her behind in her day bed and went on the walk, just Radha and me. Tears bit at the back of my eyes.
Walking down the first grassy slope to the creek, it just didn't feel the same. Radha kept looking for Chicco, and was unusually reticent and "un-playful". At the creek, where Chicco would flop blissfully in the stream, and Radha would scamper around and dip paws in and out with tail wagging hugely (she's not keen on streams is Radha, but she likes to play with Chicco in the water) ... this time Radha bent to sniff the stream intensely, and eventually left it to walk across the bridge, without any tail wags.
Coming up the hill Radha was startled by some strange sudden sounds coming from the glade: maybe a wallaby, or a lost heifer. She wasn't feeling brave. She stuck by my side, frequently looking back, maybe to see where Chicco was.
At the top of the hill, it started to rain softly. I thought, maybe I could have taken Chicco: the rain would have cooled her, kept her from overheating. She might have coped better in the cool. Maybe.
Walking along the ridge through the very tall grass back to the Grange, Radha and I decided that even though Chicco slowed us down so much, it wasn't anywhere near as nice without her...
Even so, I don't know I can take Chicco on this walk again.
When I got back, I looked with love on my old dog and apologised for not taking her with us. I stroked her black ears and her greying muzzle and promised some short interesting walks in the days to come. Her tail thumped, but then she looked away. She did, of course, know she'd been left behind. I'm not prone to anthropomorphism, but she's not daft, is Chicco.
Here are some photos from this morning. Of course, they don't contain any of Chicco.
|On the hill leading down to the creek, deep in paspalum grass|
|Sniffing for a friend in the river meadows|
|Coming along the ridge slope towards the Grange I can see the faint track ahead of us, left over from Chicco's walk last week in the long grass. Can you see it too?|
Here is the route:
View Round walk in a larger map