Walking The Dog by Chris Green
Ellie and I often see Dog Walking Man passing our front window with his bull terrier. He has a ruddy face, wears his hair short and has a look of determination. Whatever the time of year, Dog Walking Man wears the same white zip up jacket, black Adidas pants and brown lace up boots with yellow laces. In all winds and weathers, this is his uniform as he strides out at all hours of the day and night with his faithful dog by his side. The dog is thick set and muscular, white with a chunky collar and a distinctive brown patch around its left eye.
When we drive to Asda, two or so miles away to do our shopping, we usually spot Dog Walking Man somewhere along the journey, his purposeful gait giving him away from a considerable distance. Asda does not sell very good wine, and Ellie likes her wine, so to stock up sometimes we shop at Sainsburys, which is three miles in the opposite direction. Once again more often than not we pass Dog Walking Man somewhere along this route. I see him on my way to and from work and Ellie sees him on her way to her art classes. We see him on the way to the recreation centre and we see him walking along the dual carriageway when we take a trip out to the tropical fish place. I see him on the way to the match on a Saturday, sometimes even an away game. He clearly covers a lot of miles with that dog.
‘We can’t keep calling him Dog Walking Man,’ Ellie says to me as he trudges by one evening while we are watching Pointless. ‘He seems so familiar. Why don’t we give him a name?’
‘He looks a bit like Plug in The Bash Street Kids,’ I say. ‘You know the one with the buck teeth.’
‘You keep saying that, but we can’t call him Plug,’ Ellie says. ‘He’s about forty years old, Matt.’
‘What about Ivan?’ I say
‘How about Eric?’ she says.
‘Ivan’s better, I think,’ I say.
‘OK,’ she says. ‘Ivan it is. Now, what shall we call the dog?’ I see a gleam in her eye. Ellie is like T. S. Eliot when it comes to naming animals.
‘Rocky is a good name for a bull terrier, don’t you think?’ I say, as an opener.
‘Rocky is a terrible name for a bull terrier,’ she says.
‘What about Clint?’ I say.
‘He doesn’t look like a Clint to me,’ says Ellie. ‘How about Craig?’
‘Craig. H’mm, Craig,’ I say ‘OK. You win. Craig it is.’
Ivan always keeps a firm grip on Craig’s studded leather lead. He never lets Craig sniff at the things you imagine a dog might take a fancy to on the verges or at the foot of lampposts. There is no doubt about who is pack leader. Craig has accepted that sniffing at things is not what a dog is supposed to do, even in the park. If another dog approaches, they both ignore it. They carry on walking as if the animal isn’t there. Ivan never lets Craig off the lead. God knows when Craig gets to do his business.
Despite the names we have given the pair of them, we still find ourselves referring to them as Dog Walking Man and the dog. I’m not sure why this is. Perhaps old habits die hard.
Ellie and I often speculate on the story behind Dog Walking Man and his dog. Although they make a tough looking team, we have dismissed our original idea that they could be patrolling the area for a security company. Quite simply the places we see them are too random and the area too large. Ellie thinks that his treks might be part of an Anger Management Plan. I wonder if there might be a more simple explanation, that Dog Walking Man is in training for something. He may of course just like walking the dog.
Ellie and I decide to drive down to the coast. It is thirty seven miles as the crow flies to the little seaside town. We park the car on Marine Parade by Tropicana and put on our sun cream. We can smell the sea. Gulls are circling overhead. We watch them as they home in on a man sitting on the sea wall eating a pasty from its paper bag. His partner spots the danger and tries to warn him. One of the gulls swoops. The man ducks. All of a sudden our attention is drawn away by the sight of Dog Walking Man, stepping out at his familiar steady pace, bull terrier by his side, It is a hot June day but Dog Walking Man still has on his white zip up jacket and his trademark black Adidas pants. It is, of course, conceivable that he has a car and has driven the dog down to get a breath of sea air. But based on our experience it is just as likely that he has not. We have never seen Ivan driving a car.
The small brown and yellow cat that flies across the front lawn most evenings is a bit of a freak. It is new to the neighbourhood. Ellie and I think it may belong to the people who have moved into number 42, the ones from out of town. We first noticed the strange cat a couple of weeks ago while we were watching Eggheads. By the way it streaked past we thought that it might be chasing another cat, or trying to catch a bird. Perhaps it was being chased by a dog. It turned out to be none of these. It is just the way the crazy animal propels itself from A to B. It doesn’t saunter and stop to look around like other cats, it zips this way and that like grease lightning. It is much smaller than the average cat, in fact about the same size as a rabbit, which makes its appearance all the more bizarre. It is only a question of time before Ellie gets out Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats to help with some naming. When she does, I’m ready with Bennie and Whizzer.
Are Ellie and I the only ones who saw the spaceship land yesterday? We caught sight of it through the mezzanine window. We had just watched Only Connect and were on our way up the wooden hills. The craft appeared in the western sky in front of the blue mountains. We thought it was a balloon at first. As it got closer we could see that it was shaped like a sombrero. It floated gently down and landed gracefully on the heath. We watched intently for ten minutes. No little green men got out. It gradually faded until it became invisible. We have asked the neighbours but it appears that no one else caught so much as a fleeting glimpse. There is nothing about it in The Chronicle, although they do have a feature on Dog Walking Man. He has won some sort of national award for his dog walking.
© Chris Green 2015: All rights reserved