Walking the Dog

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, he wears the same white zip-up jacket, black Adidas pants and brown boots with yellow laces. At all hours of the day and night, in all winds and weathers, he strides out with his faithful dog by his side. The dog is thickset and muscular, white with a chunky collar and a distinctive brown patch around its left eye.

When we drive to Asda, two 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, we shop at Sainsburys, which is three miles in the opposite direction. More often than not, we pass Dog Walking Man somewhere along this route too. 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 centre. I see him on the way to the match on a Saturday, sometimes even if it is an away game. He clearly covers a lot of miles with his 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?’

What about Ivan?’ I say.

How about Eric?’ she says.

Ivan’s better,’ I say.

OK,’ she says. ‘Ivan it is. Now, what shall we call the dog?’ I see a gleam in Ellie’s eye. She is like T. S. Eliot when it comes to the naming of 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 Axel?’

Axel. H’mm, Axel,’ I say ‘OK. You win. Axel, it is.’

Ivan always keeps a firm grip on Axel’s studded leather lead. He never lets Axel 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 the pack leader. Axel has accepted that sniffing at things is not what a dog is supposed to do. If another dog approaches, they both ignore it. They carry on walking as if the animal isn’t there. Ivan never lets Axel off the lead. God knows when Axel gets to do his business.

Despite the names we have given the pair of them, we still refer to them as Dog Walking Man and the dog. I’m not sure why this is. Perhaps old habits die hard.

Ellie and I sometimes 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. The places we see them are too random and the area too large. Ellie thinks it might be part of Ivan’s Anger Management Plan. I wonder if he is in training for an event. It may of course be that he just enjoys 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 gull swoops. The man ducks. Suddenly 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, 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. Ellie and I think it may belong to the people who have moved into number 42. 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, about the same size as a rabbit, which makes its appearance even more bizarre. I fear 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 hills. 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 no one else caught so much as a fleeting glimpse. There is nothing about it in The Chronicle, although they have a lengthy feature on Dog Walking Man. He has won a prestigious national award for his dog walking.

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