Flossie here!

Well, here I am, a little traumatised I might add, but here. Mind you, I very nearly wasn’t…and neither was the Boss come to that!

Flossie aged 2.5 years
My serious pose

A morning trip to the woods promised much. The sun was out but that autumnal bite to the air meant I would not be too hot. I have been amazingly well behaved on the lead of late so the Boss threw caution to the wind and allowed me to jump in the boot untethered. Old Keano curled up in the foot well behind the Boss’s seat.

We drove into the car park (loosely called thus since it is not much more than a pot-holed track). I swear, the Boss was searching out as many potholes as she could!

Keano jumped out in his ‘old-man’ way, stretching a bit before ambling off into the undergrowth. I waited until I was told before leaping out and racing off towards the trees. The Boss wandered after me.

I was heading for the staggered stile that leads to the woods and looking forward to a lovely wallow in the muddiest of streams. My reverie was interrupted by the sight of, ‘Ellie’s owner”. Now, anyone familiar with my woodland walks will know that as a pup, I tried to befriend a German Shepherd called Ellie.

Ellie was bigger than me, four months older than me and looked just the sort of bouncy canine I’d care to make my friend. Naturally, I went to introduce myself. I am not sure what happened next but suffice to say, Ellie had pinned me to the ground and refused to let me get up. Ellie’s owner did her best to smooth things over and the Boss said it was just “Ellie being playful”. I took her word for it. So, next time we met Ellie, I again tried to befriend her. Alas, after several such attempts, normally ending with the Boss coaxing me out of a bush and Ellie’s owner speaking to her very sternly, I gave up. Even Keano came to my rescue once or twice.

In recent times, I have hung back and chosen a different route to Ellie and her owner. I have become very wary of all German Shepherds as it happens and who can blame me?

The Boss says she will have to train me to trust German Shepherds again…we shall see…

Today, I couldn’t see Ellie but the sight of her owner was enough. Ellie’s owner had stopped by the stile and was chatting to a group of other ladies. Some of these had dogs on leads.  Others did not. Their dogs were standing, staring straight at me. Old Keano just headed into the throng and sniffed and wagged his way through. I am ashamed to say I could not. I just could not bring myself to follow. What if Ellie was waiting in the bushes for me? Even now she could be sneaking up behind me, ready to pounce…

I sat down to think. The Boss was now chatting to the women too. She was calling me,

“It’s ok Floss, come here!”

(Who was she kidding?) I decided to take a different route. The trouble was, the different route didn’t go where I thought it should and when I got to the other end, the Boss wasn’t there. Oops, I knew the Boss would not be pleased. Only one thing for it, I retraced my steps and headed back to the car park where I lay low beside the car for a while.

In the meantime, the Boss was apparently calling me, running back and forth between the stile and the nearest stream, trying to work out where I had vanished to. She must have covered some ground but I didn’t want to give myself away until I was sure that Ellie was nowhere to be seen. I waited.

“She’s here!”

Ellie’s owner, clutching the lead of an altogether different dog, had spotted me. What was I to do? Was this a trap? I waited. The Boss appeared, red faced and breathless (did I mention the entrance to the woods is on a steep slope?)

“Oh Flossie, come on, it’s ok,” she pleaded.

I looked at her, every bone in my body wanting to do as she said. Alas, I couldn’t. Sensing my inability to move, the Boss sighed and walked right up to where I lay and, thank goodness, clipped my lead to my collar.

Whew! I greeted her warmly. Ellie’s owner waved and got into her car with the other dog. Where was Ellie?

The Boss thought about just going home, she was quite worn out but, she is a woman of her word and she’d said we’d have a walk and a walk is what we would have.

By the time we were half way round our normal route, I had quite forgotten about Ellie. The Boss was happily thinking what a wonderful, sunny morning it was and Keano was dragging his heels, pretending to be interested in something or other and I was dipping in and out of the trees and the water. I had decided that there were no ferocious dogs in the vicinity after all.

As we reached a crossroads in the woods, the Boss slowed her pace. I could see her expression from here. Was she worried?

Ahead I caught sight of a large, bald-headed man and two grey-hound look-alikes (Lurchers?) the man was behaving most oddly. He gathered the dogs to him but he wasn’t using leads. He appeared to be using lengths of rope.

“Stay!” he ordered. They didn’t look ferocious. I hung back by the Boss’s side just in case. I knew what the Boss was hoping. She was hoping the man would take the right hand turn and be gone, with his dogs, before we reached him. That is exactly what I expected to happen.

After a few seconds it became obvious that the man was not going to move. We were going to have to go right past him. Now, knowing the Boss from old, I can tell you that she would have been contemplating turning round at that moment. I wouldn’t have blamed her. It would look a bit odd now though. We were so close. So, she called Keano and we all walked bravely past. The man didn’t say anything to us. He was making the dogs ‘stay’ and offering them treats. The Boss spoke,

“Training?” she smiled.

The man said nothing. We turned left.

I could tell the Boss’s pace had quickened. She didn’t even let Keano go and say hello to the two dogs. I had no inclination to introduce myself.

After covering a suitable distance down the track, I saw her turn to see whether the man was following. I knew she’d be calculating how far it was to the car park from here and if she could actually run if she needed to. (The Boss’s imagination runs riot at times like this).

He was. Slowly.

The Boss, who until the crossroads, had actually been enjoying her brisk walk, looked quite unnerved and doubled her speed again. When she next looked back, the man was nowhere to be seen.

She didn’t let up though. We almost raced to the stile and she practically jumped into the car and drove off before we had time to settle.

Of course, once home, the Boss decided the man was in all probability trying to train the dogs and used us as a handy training aid. Maybe…

I found out what happened to Ellie. It turns out, poor Ellie was born with a deformity of the spine and this is what made her so grumpy. She had an operation but was in so much pain she had to be sent to “Doggy heaven”. This does not sound like a place I want to go to any time soon but it does mean she is no longer a threat in the woods. In a funny way, I shall miss Ellie.

I am not sure how the Boss feels about the woods now though. She seemed pretty unnerved. I will need to be patient with her and train her to trust again…

I am an Author, wife to one, mother to five and grandmother to six. I live in the English countryside in Hampshire, UK, with my husband and two dogs and am a non exec Director for Glow www.theglowstudio.com.


  • Andrea

    I’ve only seen lurchers on trips to England. Are they considered aggressive? I’ve had a whippet mix and a greyhound mix in my life. Both were sweet dogs. But there must be something about lurchers that’s different. The man sounds odd. I’m glad you all got safely home, but I’m sorry to hear about poor Ellie. No wonder she was cranky. I’m not sure you’ll really miss her though, Flossie. Something tells me you’re just being kind, but then that is obviously your nature.

    • Deborah Barker

      Oh no, Lurchers aren’t known to be aggressive Andrea, quite the opposite but unscrupulous people use them for poaching and the like as they are great go-getters. The Boss’s last dog was a Lurcher – had a wonderful temperament – she was a brindle and looked just like a greyhound. Some are mixtures of greyhound and wofhounds or collies. These dogs looked fine, it was the man who was odd! The imagination is a curse sometimes…

  • Teresa

    Oh Flossie, what a traumatic trip to the woods that turned out to be. You were very good to wait by the car though. It’s sad about Ellie. And scary about the man – most dog people you meet are friendly, but he sounds odd! I don’t blame your mum at all for hurrying back to the car. Sounds as if you both needed a big hug after all that x

  • hilarymb

    Hi Deborah .. I can quite feel for you – though I’ve never owned dogs … for a while I’d walk my brother’s dogs up and over the Downs .. standard poodles – but always got anxious!! One day one of them got lost and I was calling and calling in the fog and mist – someone shouted from down below at the house – she’s here!! And another time .. one of them was rabbiting and got left behind I got fed up and went back to the house … at the last minute Winifred (yes Winifred!!!) came careering down the lane with her ears pinned wide open like arms … the brambles had become stuck in her fur, causing said spread!

    Great walk though .. I loved your story – but more so … that Boss has decided that it’s all ok!! and life is relaxed again … cheers Hilary

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