After a whole month of freedom to roam when and where they wanted at our cottage by the sea, Jemma and Jamie found it a real shock returning to city suburbia with walls and boring gardens. Once again they are dependent on me for mental and physical stimulation.
It has been equally traumatic for me. I had to jump on to the roller coaster ride that is 2010 going from 0 to 100 km per hour in a millisecond. I am now juggling life and the ever present guilt of finding the time and energy to take my dogs out.
In the city this is no mean feat. Taking them for a walk on a lead has become an unpleasant option for both of us. They feel reined in and I feel like I'm being drawn and quartered as they pull me in opposite directions. So we prefer a park where we can all do our own thing.
But first you have to find a suitable park, then you have to organise the outing with military precision. Check for dog whistle, poop scoop bags, treats, water, a bowl, collars and leads, a hat, walking shoes, and a cash tip for the car park guard. Then I have to lock up the house and persuade Jamie to get into the car (he is still reluctant to get in this machine that makes him feel car sick).
All of this takes at least half an hour and must be achieved by 3.30pm before peak hour traffic. Sitting bumper to bumper in a Johannesburg traffic jam is not good for the nerves. It is a half hour drive to the big parks where we walk for an hour and another half hour drive back (traffic permitting). So a dog walk is a two and a half hour operation!
When I can't take them, I suffer the consequences. They run around my house and property like banshees possessed. This is usually accompanied by loud, excitable barking which is an additional stressor as I wait for a call from an irritated neighbour. They do not care that this is a dog's version of happy hour. Mind you, even after a walk they are so revved up that they still run around the house like banshees for at least an hour afterwards!
On weekends I have devised a way to compensate for my lack of fitness as I would need to run a marathon before they would eventually tire! I walk for an hour then find myself a spot to sit where there are lots of passing dogs and their owners. Jemma and Jamie keep themselves busy saying hallo to every new comer while I read the Sunday newspaper and drink coffee. Works for me!