Saturday, 6 October 2012

Mountaineering with Greyhounds

It sounds like a quirky book title, in the same vein as Salmon-Fishing in the Yemen or A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian (both of which I own, one of which I have still to read).

But today, 10 legs and 3 creatures set off up a big hill.

My new house (or hoose now I live north of the border) is at the bottom of the Campsie Fells. For a while I thought I lived at the bottom of Meikle Bin, but thanks to my recent purchase of an OS map, I discovered it's actually Cort-Ma Law.

I've wiggled up the Crow Road a few times in the car, trying to establish just how hard it will be to cycle up, but today, having consulted the map, we stopped at the car park and headed up. And up, and up some more.

We've (and by we, I mean the three of us) done a little hill walking before (once, near the Carron Valley Reservoir the week we moved in). I hadn't really considered the practicalities of 8 speedy-but-spindly legs on 2 leads, and navigating through bogs, round sheep poo and across rocks.

Ronnie is the self-appointed Team Leader (so named by one of our previous dog walkers due to his enthusiasm for everything, he is always at the front charging on) and is always first. Today was no exception. He hesitated for a split second when confronted with the first slope, but was then straight off.  It's quite entertaining (and very energy efficient) being pulled up a slope by two greyhounds.

Ronnie led us up, Wendy taking her turn following him and following me. She was a little hesitant on occasion, but realised we weren't changing our minds. We picked our path around various obstacles, and as we got higher, I started to question the wisdom of this operation. Just on the other side of the slope on the picture, there were sheep.

Walking two recently retired greyhounds with a strong chase instinct/prey drive can be quite entertaining at times. I am constantly unwrapping and stepping over leads, pulling in either dog from lunging after cats/birds/squirrels/crisp packets/cyclists. I have never yet been pulled over, but 65kg of greyhound vs. 55kg of girl, well it wouldn't end well if the hounds set their minds to it.

I started to understand why many dogs are off the lead on mountains. We managed going up, but gradually I realised that what went up would need to come down at some point, and I was afraid.

There was no need to worry. Ronnie, although keen, was very gentle coming down, and didn't pull at all. Mostly he pushed on carefully, waiting when necessary. The only difficulty we had was when he spotted some crows (hence Crow Road). Fortunately this was on a relatively flat bit of grass and no damage was done.

He was also, rather curiously, very interested in the cars passing on the road below us (which you can see in the picture below). But then gradually I realised, these were high contrast brightly coloured moving objects, and as a sighthound bred to chase first and ask questions later, he wouldn't have understood that these were not lures, or rabbits, or Westies, or Jack Russells.

In the end we made it safely down. It was a good day for many reasons.

While we all enjoyed our walk, I will look for something a bit less demanding next time, as the risk of a fall was quite high. When leads and the urge to chase are weighed up, safety has to be the main consideration.

We had our first proper journey into the hills surrounding our new home, one of the main reasons for moving to this particular place.

I saw a plane landing at Glasgow Airport, which is 20 miles away. I saw the hills even further south than this.

I realised how much I love being in this environment, although the rock climbing aspect no longer really appeals.

I realised that my days are now much less structured, and outside of lectures and lessons, I can walk/cycle/run around here to my heart's content.

I realised my general level of fitness is much better than I thought (despite recent illness), and certainly much better than 15 years ago when I made my first tentative ventures into the mountains. This bodes well and I am now looking forward to some more serious hillwalking/mountaineering and even some fell running.

I realised just how near the hills are, and how lucky I am to live here. Our walk took about an hour, and the whole trip took an hour and a half. This is easily doable as part of an afternoon, or a morning. When the summer comes, well, as Eddie Izzard would say on the advert, the opportunities are endless.

I realised just how easy it can be to leave things behind when you want to.

I wished there was someone to share this with, but realised I am ready to start looking again, and realised that loving being outdoors will be a requirement fairly near the top of the list.

I realised that the lovely Wendy has come a long way on her rescue dog journey, and even when 2 unfamiliar dogs ran right up to her, she did not bark or flinch. She stood patiently as I reassured her, and when the dogs went away we had a huge cuddle and lots of fuss. I am SO proud, as she was obviously scared.

I was also proud of Ronnie, who although very bouncy and boisterous on many occasions, turned out to be super gentle when I needed him to be.

Overall, a good day today.


Apologies to anyone who follows me on Twitter or Instagram, as today my tweets and photos have been particularly dog-related...