This morning the sun was out, the tide was out and the sparrows were nowhere to be seen. Instead the seagulls were out, right out on the flats between the beach and the sea. This was the ideal pitch for a game of chase. The pitch probably not quite a mile long from Herne Bay Pier to the Hampton Inn and at least 150 yards wide as the sea is very shallow and goes out a considerable distance.
So, the easiest game of chase I will ever have the chance to referee. I lay down on the pebbles and watched. It made me glow with happiness to see Fred run free – free —- free. I know he will never catch one as seagulls are just better equipped to avoid such hazards. But the chase is everything, even though the gulls might fly 20 feet of the ground Fred is still after them, galloping through the shallows leaving a kind of vapor trail in the sea behind him. Then he spots another one still on the sand and he changes direction and makes a B line towards it. Seagulls are so lazy and leave it to the last minute to move and even then they can hardly be bothered to fly away and land again several yards away. Then they have to fly off again and it goes on like this for a while. I can hear Fred not barking but kind of squeaking as he charges around, vapour trail in the shallow water behind him.
I know he won’t come back for all the tea in China but I call his name anyway……he’s gone deaf, and I know it’s a waste of time. I start thinking about all the puppy training classes we have been to and start wondering what the dog trainers would say if they saw what was going on? There weren’t any joggers, cyclists or dogs not socially adjusted in sight. No small children, no cars, no vulnerable adults or even anyone anywhere to be seen. I was now feeling guilty that my dog was having the time of his life and doing something in his genetic code, it’s how he’s been put together.
He’s not going to come back for a tiny little dog treat .. he’s running… just running …. running free.
Lovely to see …… but somehow forbidden!
Makes me sad.
3 uninterested joggers
4 low key dog walkers
4 disgruntled builders
And as many sparrows as you like.
No one wants to talk its Monday morning; except one of the builders was complaining about the recent rain which had turned his working area in to a mud-bath, the digger would be sliding down the muddy slope making his work difficult.
Fred walked in search of sparrows. Then, when located a switch in his head is flicked, he will chase them some considerable distance with total disregard for the perimeter of what was naively thought to be the boundaries for the game. My role in this game is find safe places to chase sparrows. But here’s the thing. Sparrows don’t seem to know which are the safe places to fly and Fred doesn’t mind where he chases them. Also, Fred also goes temporarily deaf for the duration of the game. So – me as the referee in this match find it hard to keep the game on the pitch. In fact, it doesn’t stay on the pitch, it traverses back and forth across a few pitches!
After the match Fred is very happy, we walk home together he is in a very good mood, he walks to heal if I ask him and he sits at the roads before crossing them if asked. When we get home he’s ready to settle down and sleep off the excitement.
If we walk in the morning its early, before it gets too hot. We are on our way to the beach and I am thinking of testing a section of ‘the downs’ where it might be better for Fred if he starts chasing birds and the risk of him charging across the road in headlong pursuit of a starling is very much reduced! I am aware a man is walking purposefully towards me. I think nothing of it expecting him to get into a parked car, or through a garden gate and up to his front door…but No.
‘Hello I’ve just finished reading about your new work in the woodlands’
‘Have you, (I have no idea who this man is?) is that the Tree Trail in Thornden woods?
‘Yes that’s right, there is an article on pages 18-19 in the Wild Kent publication’.
Anyway; this man says he has visited my workshop during artists open houses or something a couple of years ago. He explains that he is a member of the Kent Wildlife Trust and receives this magazine as part of his membership subscription. He tells me to wait a second while he runs off to get the mag and returns showing me a nice article with photos and that, about a recent interpretation project I did with the Kent Wildlife Trust. See project (click here)
He says, ‘You can keep that if you like?’
Thank you I say that’s great, he then explains that when he has finished with these quarterly magazines he tends to leave them in chip shops, barbers shops, dentists or doctors waiting rooms.
We walk onto the identified section of ‘the downs’ and Fred is not really interested in starlings this morning. We sit down on the steps of someone’s beach hut and I start looking at the Summer 18 Kent Wild Life Trust Magazine – ‘A Symbiosis of Nature’ A new flagship visitor centre, a Nature and Wellbeing Centre the first of its kind dedicated to connecting people and nature in ways that demonstrate positive benefits for both people and wildlife. This to be built at the Kent Wildlife Trusts Centre Sevenoaks Reserve. Architects selected are Studio McLeod and Ekkist.
I do wonder what the positive benefits for animals might be and how we might be meaningfully connected in true symbiotic fashion? I look at Fred….he is beach combing (chewing seaweed) and I am left thinking the man we encountered earlier who leaves these magazines in random places is a kind activist or evangelist working for nature in a low key way, as the mag does make me feel bad about our whole relationship to nature.
It is more than 3 years after the death of my previous dog Cosmo we now have ‘Fred’ and life moves into a new era. My work no doubt will also change; my practice as an artist has always been about places and people, but dog walking looks at this relationship through a lens not used much in my role as an artist working in the public realm. I am looking to balance my creative life through this blog about dog ownership.
This was the first time I let Fred off the lead, half expecting him to head for hills. My fears were unfounded and I wondered what might lay ahead. Cyclists, joggers, birds sometimes cars in fact anything that moves creates a chase scenario for Fred. A lot of our walking time has been about anticipation and avoidance of what might be described as triggers. But he’s still a puppy, but I feel chasing is in his DNA.