​Walking the Dogs

We had got up slightly later than usual. The dogs did not seem to mind. They clung onto the lie in as long as possible, and it was when I said the magic word, ‘let’s play frisbee,’ that Lilly stirred herself and came rushing downstairs.
Where Lilly goes, the Gabster must surely follow, and though not as sure footed as Lilly she soon came crashing down the stairs. She did pause briefly at the top, just to check that this was not a false alarm, but only briefly.
The Gabster has to wear a red coat with the words ‘Caution’ on the side, and we are working hard on getting her to accept a muzzle. Not easy and it involves an awful lot of cheese, but we will get there.
Getting them both from the house to the car, parked outside in the street, takes a little careful planning.
Checking that there are no cats, people, or dogs in view, we shuffle the short distance to the car, and with a little encouragement, they both get into the back. Lilly usually sneaks through to the front seat while Gabby settles down in the back.
Because Gabby is so reactive to some people and all dogs (except of course Lilly) we have to choose the walks carefully. Early morning trips to Green Lane is often full of surprises. There is the lane to walk along and then a good size field that has a public footpath through it.
Assuming there is no one around, Lilly can go off the lead while the Gabster has a 30′ line.
I always take my binoculars. The mix of farm land, little patches of plantation woods and the overburden tip of the old Water-swallows quarry provide a fascinating mosaic of habitats.
The swallows are still about, sweeping down through the narrow corridors made by the trees, feeding on the insects, or sitting and chattering on the telephone lines.
The disused quarry hosts Sand Martins and a colony of black headed gulls. The Gulls have left now, but the Sand Martins still hunt and cavort high above the quarry lake.
Green woodpeckers nest in the shelter belt. They have raised at least one young this year, and I see them most days as they fly from tree to tree.
Occasionally a Sparrow hawk flaps and glides across the sky and it is not uncommon to see Buzzards and Peregrines.
This morning though there was a special surprise. I was glancing over the dry-stone wall and looking at the South Devon cattle that graze the fields when I saw a hare sitting alert and very still amongst the short-cropped grass.
It stayed there for a minute before loping off across the field. I thought it was going to disappear, but then for some reason, it turned and loped back towards me. It came to within 20′ of the wall before it sensed me or perhaps the dogs hidden from sight but not from scent. It looked a little thin, a little weary. It stopped and just for a second we made eye contact before it loped quickly away and to comparative safety.
The dogs unaware of the hare were sitting waiting for me to continue the walk. So off we went again. Back to the snuffling and sniffing.

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