The moment I have long dreaded arrived this evening.*
The hours I spend (not) listening to the bats in the walls are not, perhaps, optimally spent. It’s very very late when these concerts are going on and what I want to do is SLEEP, but this option being unavailable, I tend to read and/or knit.** This means that lately by the time the bats go to sleep so that I can, when I finally get up again I have to sprint through the rest of my days even later and more overwhelmed than usual.*** Today handbell practise was at Gemma’s house† which means an extra forty-five minutes of commute†† aaaand of course we ran late††† so when I got home‡ I was in a hurry to get hellhounds out and hurtled as efficiently as possible. I was thus led into error.
We hustled down to one of the big rec grounds where I have occasionally let hellhounds off lead, despite my general ban on letting them off lead anywhere in town, because my long view is pretty good, especially of the bottom gate where, if there’s trouble, it usually arrives, and hellhounds were doing major airs above the ground‡‡ and caroming off the hedgerows and me and making me not only crazy but oppressed by the old guilt-guilt-guilt-you-have-running-dogs-they’re-supposed-to-run-guilt-guilt-GUILT.
There was nothing coming.
There was nothing coming in ANY direction. We were ENTIRELY ALONE.
I let them off lead. And they took flight, the way they do—‘airborne’ is a poor, mingy sort of word for it. They had just made their first .07 second steel-grey-and-fawn-blur lap around this several-acre field, and I was just turning round where I stood to keep them in sight—for the joy of watching them run more than any intimation of doom—and saw another dog emerge from behind the hedgerow. On lead, trailing a person.
I’m sure the adrenaline spike left a hole in my skull, I just haven’t wanted to check. My guys are entirely friendly, but they’re also entirely manic, and will climb all over another dog, poor thing, and there are two of them. Most dogs don’t like this much, and I don’t blame them. And it’s one of my own most-hated things when an off lead dog comes and jumps all over mine on lead, even if it’s friendly.‡‡‡ And—what if this one wasn’t friendly? It was about twice the size of one of mine. . . .
This is all happening in less than a flash, you realise. The hellhounds were sweeping full-tilt around toward the other dog and its (riveted) owner. I saw the ears and the tails go up as I drew a frantic breath to scream Chaos’ name. Of the two of them, Darkness might conceivably come when called in full hurtle with an object in view—Chaos at best tunes out more than he tunes in. No frelling prayer he was going to hear me with another dog in range.§
I screamed—Chaos’ name first, then Darkness’. I’d taken my first one or two pathetic human running steps toward the blossoming catastrophe. And . . .
Chaos faltered. And looked back toward me. And, I think, saw Darkness, slightly reluctantly but still immediately and obediently arcing back to me. And Chaos followed.
They were still in high hurtle mode, and when they got to me they climbed all over me, and there was more biting than I usually allow on these let’s-play-with-the-hellgoddess occasions but I was way too glad to have them back to care and what’s a few bruises among friends anyway? And I had called them in before they’d finished running off that first ten minutes of total speed-madness, and they weren’t at all snarky about my putting them back on lead . . . and I think they’re total stars.
Mind you I am never letting them off lead in that field again.
* * *
* All right, one of the moments I have long dreaded. There are others waiting patiently and cackling to themselves. And giving me a prod occasionally to make sure I still care. AAAAAUGH. Yes.
** Please do not all fall on me in a body crying READING AND KNITTING ARE OPTIMAL ACTIVITIES. It depends on what you’re reading. Or knitting. At 5 a.m. you tend to choose things least likely to wind you up and make you want to throw them against the wall,^ since you’re still hoping to get some sleep eventually.
^ Although yes, I know I should blog more about books. (I also know I keep saying this.) I’ve read three this week worth a mention.+
+ And one that is not.
*** Also, there’s this auction. . . .
† She lives in a tall thin house at the top of one of Mauncester’s surprisingly steep hills. She says her best friend is from the southern Himalayas and that the friend says Gemma’s garden reminds her of home. Sitting in Gemma’s kitchen^ you look out mostly over the tops of trees and empty space—the garden drops away in a tiered precipice at your feet—with the occasional roof-peak poking through. It’s fabulous. And the tall thin house contains five people^^ and is in the middle of a city, and yet you have this sense of peace and space. And if you live there you have very strong thighs, and carry pitons in your pocket.
We rang both bob major and bob minor—throwing poor Gemma in at the deep end with the bob major, but if you have four people, either you ring major, or one of you has to sit out and knit—and golly is it hard work ringing slowly enough for a beginner to begin to find her own way through the thickets rather than rely on being dragged or shunted^^^. Do I know the 3-4 to bob major? Do I know the 3-4 to bob major?!? Um. Yes.
When Gemma went off to make tea however Niall and Colin caught me in a tackle as I was about to follow her and mooch about the garden, and forced me to ring Cambridge minor. Which was in fact not quite as horrific as I was expecting after being really embarrassing on Tuesday. Which is still not saying I can get through a plain course to the end. Siiiiiiigh. I AM going to ring Cambridge in hand^^^^, I AM. YES. But I’d wasted most of my practise time today arguing with frelling Abel, which is the full computer version of Pooka’s bell ringing ap, the latter being a little too stripped down for certain purposes. . . .
I was thinking on the way home that it’s a pity more of you don’t live in Hampshire and aren’t getting married. I could auction off handbells at your wedding.
^ Eating flapjacks+ made with local honey.
+ English flapjacks are what I grew up calling oatmeal bars, something like this: http://allrecipes.co.uk/recipe/401/flapjacks.aspx
^^ Approximately, said Gemma thoughtfully. The children tend to bring friends home unexpectedly.
^^^ The ‘ringing by beckoning/available gap’ method. It only works if everybody else is dead accurate.
^^^^ Or for that matter in the tower. SIIIIIIIIGH.
††Although that’s forty-five minutes I didn’t spend boiling around the cottage sweeping up hellhound hair and dropped geranium petals (again) and throwing the nearest twelve pairs of All Stars under the bed^ and stuffing the dirty laundry into the laundry bags instead of all over the floor, scrutinizing the bathroom sink, tub and toilet for having been scrubbed out within recent memory^^ and that there are enough clean mugs to offer everyone a cup of tea.
^ First checking carefully that I’m not going to hit any roosting bats
^^ Ie fifteen minutes before I invited the last person round for a cup of tea. I disapprove strongly of drop-ins.
††† This partly because Gemma’s two sons made injudicious appearances and were grappled into having a go at plain hunt on handbells. We’re a vicious crew, we handbellers. We take prisoners. We missed her husband and daughter. Next time.
‡ And after Niall spent 4.5 seconds sorting me out on Abel.
‡‡ With audio
‡‡‡ Pretty well 100% of irresponsible moron dog owners out there don’t get it that WHATEVER the personalities involved are, an on lead dog is at a DISADVANTAGE with an OFF LEAD dog. Jeezum crawdaddies, you humans, don’t you have any brain to engage?
§ Yes, any dog can be trained, and therefore my training methods are at fault. But sighthounds are notorious for being a trifle training resistant—what they’re good at is what they’re bred for, which is chasing things, and I’m wasting mine really, since they bring their (occasional) kills to me naturally—and if Chaos has had a chance to draw a bead on something, you could hit him over the head with a giant sequoia and he wouldn’t notice.
Please join the discussion at Robin McKinley's Web Forum.