Friday, 24 January 2014

An unexpected encounter

Marcia and I had a meeting at Dartington last Monday. Once this was over we popped into the Roundhouse there for a cup of coffee.

Dartington Great Hall from the gardens.
It was, as you can see, a day of sunshine and showers.
I do not have to tell you that I am always on the look out for a blog dog and so you will not be surprised to hear that when we left and I saw a likely candidate sitting attached to a motorised wheelchair, I just had to stop and ask for permission to take his picture. You will see the result below.

Like many collies, Boogie is totally on the ball – alert, intelligent and ready for anything. Unlike many people who have to cope with life in a wheelchair, Philippa Armstrong is equally alert, intelligent and ready for anything. Most of the “anythings” in her life have to do with her dogs: there are two more which we shall meet one of these weeks.

I am sure that many of you have seen dog agility competitions either in the flesh (or should that be ‘in the fur’) or on television. The handlers look to be as fit as the dogs as they race around the course, guiding their dogs over, around and underneath the various obstacles they have to overcome. All handlers, that is, apart from Philippa – the only handler to control her dogs from a wheelchair. In these rings she competes on level terms with able-bodied handlers (about two hundred of them) and she is surprisingly successful: she has competed in two national finals.

Now, think about that for a moment. It is hard enough training dogs when you can work close to them but Philippa has to control them from her wheelchair which, to be blunt about it, just isn’t fast enough or agile enough to stay close to the dogs. That means she has to control them from a distance which, in turn, means that both she and her dogs have to be that much better than the competition to have an even chance of success. If you want to read more about her, click here.

Snowdrops heralding the spring
This mahonia, meanwhile, seems to think it is still autumn.
After this bit of doggy portraiture, Marcia and I went for a short walk through the gardens at Dartington before returning back to our computers. There we found the first signs of spring just around the corner: snowdrops just visible, the first crocus poking shy heads above the ground, a couple of male blackbirds shouting at each other and then taking off to chase each other through the shrubs and trees. Ignoring them was a robin, intent on enjoying a late lunch, and overhead the rooks were chattering amongst themselves.

Driving back home the sunset was astonishingly beautiful and because we had taken Marcia’s car I was able to just sit and watch as the colours of the clouds hanging over Dartmoor changed from white to the palest of yellows and then through a pink suited to some mythical princess to an almost angry red. Suddenly, as if a light had been turned off, more rain clouds gathered overhead and we were hardly inside the house when the heavens opened – again. The end of another memorable day.

Boogie - I hope to offer you another one of this chap in action quite soon.