Andrea McHugh reports on some of the unexpected benefits of lockdown…
There has understandably been a lot of anxiety, frustration, and resistance to lockdown in recent weeks, particularly among the canine community, with shows being cancelled and people unable to get to training classes or walk where they would like to go. I know I’ve experienced all of those emotions myself, but as the weeks have gone on and we have begun to adjust to this new ‘normal’, I have realised that my dogs are actually loving this period of lockdown! Furthermore, if I’m totally honest with myself, against all expectations, I’ve discovered that among the challenges there are actually several positives. Here are a few examples…
1. Walk this way
Prior to lockdown I would enjoy putting my three dogs into the car and driving to wherever I fancied so that I could escape the madding crowd in favour of rural walks in the deepest countryside. Lockdown obviously put a stop to all that, and I was forced to look closer to home for places to explore. I am lucky enough to live in an area with fields in front of my home, and I thought I knew them quite well. However, I was wrong. Since lockdown I have gone out every day, and have found so many new little trails, footpaths, and bridleways that I just hadn’t realised were there before! Each day I have discovered new places, and been genuinely excited to stumble across some ancient woodland, beautiful lakes, and stunning views that without lockdown I would never have discovered. This has genuinely been an eye-opener for me, and needless to say the dogs have really enjoyed their daily adventures.
2. Sit and stay
As the pace of life slows, and we all become less busy, so the need to always ‘be somewhere’ has diminished. With one walk a day to look forward to, I savour every single minute. This means that for the past few weeks, for the first time in forever, I often make a point of just stopping on a walk when there is a lovely view, and sitting down with the dogs to drink it all in. At first the dogs looked at me in confusion, wondering what we were going to do, and what they were expected to do, but soon they realised that it’s fun to just sit with me, or play together for a few minutes before we move on. I’ve being videoing 60 seconds of calm each day to share on social media, and having that intention has made me look for interesting places, sounds, and sights. Chilling out is fun!
3. No shows
The start of lockdown coincided with the outdoor agility season and I also had some heelwork to music shows booked into my diary. Every weekend I would be off somewhere, out in the fresh air, testing our skills, and meeting friends. I had already booked and paid for several shows, which were unfortunately cancelled, and now it looks as if there will be no shows at all for the entire summer. At first this made me a little sad, particularly as it would have been a last summer of competing for soon to be 11-year-old Coco, but I know that my dogs haven’t missed the shows at all. They haven’t missed training either. Although they enjoy agility, and are always excited and waggy-tailed to be at shows, neither me nor my dogs are what you might call early birds, and the dogs are quite happy not having to get up at the crack of dawn to go off for a day of competing. Training and shows are as much for the handlers as they are for the dogs, and as long as my dogs get to go on lovely walks every day they are perfectly happy, if not happier. If they could speak, they would give no-show 2020 a big paws up!
4. Home time
I work from home, but prior to lockdown I would often have to go to meetings, and would always be rushing about to make sure I met deadlines. Some days I felt like I might meet myself coming backwards! Although I’ve been lucky enough to still have some work coming in, lockdown has meant that I’m home with the dogs all the time and I know they have loved having my full attention.
As a bonus, my daughter has returned home from university and so the dogs get double the love as she constantly showers them with affection and cuddles. The dogs also lift our spirits on those days when it all seems a bit groundhog day and the news is full of doom and gloom. The dogs seem to sense this and turn on the charm, entertaining us with their antics and making us laugh, which lifts our mood. ‘Thank goodness for the dogs’ is a phrase I’ve said so many times during lockdown!
5. Fun and games
We are currently unable to go to formal training classes, and with regular income hit and miss, these are an unaffordable luxury at present. However, that doesn’t mean that all training has stopped, or that we aren’t able to have fun. Some trainers have been incredibly generous with their time, sharing free Facebook live tutorials of trick training, heelwork to music routines, agility sequences, and charity challenges. My dogs, none of whom are Dobermanns, were even included in the Lincs Dobermann Rescue toilet roll challenge, which was brilliant fun — everyone submitted a video of themselves catching a toilet roll, doing a fun move with their dog, and then ‘throwing’ the toilet roll for someone else to catch. The video clips were then all edited together into one seamless film, which appeared to show handlers and dogs from all over the country throwing those elusive toilet rolls to each other and catching them! If you’d like to have a look, check out the video below...
I have to say, that the bloopers version of that video was even better! Definitely made me smile!