How To Keep On Walking; or, Why Not To Trust A Cypriot Rescue Dog To Know It’s Way Home In England..

Updated: Jan 27, 2018

I am very blessed at the moment to be house and dog sitting for someone in an idyllic location. The sun rises on one side of the house, and sets on the other; the whole place is surrounded by fields and sky; the garden is a befriended haven of glorious wildness and the house is just beautifully filled with love, care and joyful affirmation for life. And of course there is an amazing dog to keep me entertained and in connection with the present moment.

This afternoon, after a wonderful session of myofascial release with an amazing therapist, I was feeling chilled and grounded, and set out with the dog for a walk. The last couple of days I have let him choose the routes and he has brought me back home in easy loops. Today I decided I wanted a longer walk so I headed a bit further out on the path away from the house. I then proceeded to just follow the dog as I had done the previous days. I did some work with him on not pulling on the lead, and we carried on merrily walking along; me stopping if there was any tension in the line, and waiting til he exhausted all other options and came back towards me, then I would walk on. He picked up on this really quickly and we were having a lovely walk with no straining or pulling, enjoying the afternoon sun, the light on the leaves, trees and crops, and the various birds and wildlife around and about. We had a hilarious moment where I had stopped as he had been pulling, and he came back towards me. He was about half the lead’s distance away and I noticed a squirrel on the path ahead. He noticed it too. So there is me and the dog standing stock still, and this cheeky squirrel comes TOWARDS us. It literally got within ten feet of the dog before he even tried to move; I think he was too shocked at the audacity of the little thing to move! But even then, he was pretty good considering the cockiness of the squirrel, and we carried on with our walk, and the squirrel carried on with its day, no doubt feeling quite proud of itself for sizing up to a large dog with absolutely no negative consequences.

I began to realise I had lost all perception of which direction the house was or where we had come from. I had gone out with nothing except the dog and a key. No phone. No handy devices with maps and directions. Just me and the dog. I had not been paying much attention to where we had been going; I had been just enjoying being in connection with the dog and the actual act of walking. I hadn’t been looking around at the lay of the land, or any reference points or landmarks. I had just walked. I didn’t worry too much. It was a beautiful afternoon, and I had nothing to get back for. Plus I still trusted he would take us home soon enough. My concept of time is not always great, but I knew we had been gone maybe an hour or so. We randomly walked past a house with an outdoor clock and I saw it said 6:30. I had left at 4:10.. Huh.. I thought. I wonder where on earth we are.. (Actually my thought track said the clock must be wrong… Hahaha..)

We seemed to keep ending up in odd places.. I found myself in a field where there didn’t seem to be much of a path other than around the crops. This was OK for the dog, but I ended up with exceptionally stung legs from the nettles, and clearly this wasn’t somewhere we were meant to be walking. We reached the corner of this field and the choice was climb a fence into another random field or dive through more stinging nettles and hawthorn bushes to an unknown destination on the other side. I went for the fence. We walked through another field we clearly were not meant to be in, just to find we couldn’t go anywhere other than keep going around it. We managed to get out onto a path. It led to a dead end, in that it was someone’s private driveway. We walked back down it. I was beginning to lose trust in the dog’s sense of direction.

We found ourselves on a main road. I had an idea which road it was, but couldn’t be 100% sure, and it is in no way a safe road to walk a dog on. I umm’ed and arr’ed about what the sensible thing to do was and I decided I should follow the road the direction I thought the house was. Some cars went past and were very respectful, but I began to feel kinda scared about the dog. If it had just been me, it wouldn’t have bothered me so much, but this was not a road for a dog. So I began to run. Anyone who knows me knows that general speaking running is something I would only consider if being chased by a zombie. As zombies don’t exist, this gives you an idea of the probability of me running anywhere. But I ran, and it felt surprisingly OK. I was almost enjoying it, until I found myself plummeting headfirst towards the tarmac. I don’t even know what happened, whether the dog pulled me over or what, but there I was, falling face first on a blind corner of a main road. Thank God (or my genetics) for my rather large breasts. They made excellent shock absorbers. I genuinely felt my thoracic organs and my brain slam into the bones put in place to protect them. My hands went down automatically but I swear my chest took most of the impact. I jumped up and grabbed the dog on instinct and pulled us into a field. I didn’t know what else to do. There wasn’t time to see if there was any injury or not. Safety was more important. I didn’t appear to be bleeding. I had mud encrusted hands, and felt a bit odd through my chest and head, but apart from that, seemed injury free.

I decided to stay off the road, but to follow it as best I could in the adjacent field. This didn’t work very well as after one field, we hit an impenetrable-to-humans hedge and had to head up away from the road again. I still had no idea where I was going. I could see nothing I recognised; no signs or clear indicators of which way we should go. The dog seemed kinda subdued too. I was clearly on land I was not meant to be on. I stumbled across a smaller road and followed it. There was a house with a party going on. Luckily there was a guy in the driveway. I swallowed my English pride and asked him where on earth I was. He had no real clue either, but he was able to give me a couple of reference points and so I knew a little more which way to go. My feeling had been right and I was heading the right way. I had actually made this decision based on the sun position originally when I realised maybe the dog wasn’t the best local tour guide after all. I knew the sun had been on my left heading away from the house, and that it set behind the house. I had kept the sun on my right heading “back” and it appeared to be working.

I decided it was most sensible to just follow the road. It was a country track; not ideal for walking but way safer than the main road. Then it seemed like the dog suddenly knew where he was and veered off down a path into a field. I wasn’t overly inclined to trust him but his energy had changed so much that I did follow him, believing he must have picked up the scent of home. My brain was also beginning to kick in by this time. I was getting tired, and my human tendency for fear and catastrophising was beginning to bubble up. Thoughts of accidents, death by *insert appropriate thing that can kill you dramatically in the middle of a field of wheat/barley.. Aliens coming to make some crop circles maybe and landing their space craft on your head?*, broken limbs and dramatic re-enactments of that film where someone saws a limb off that is trapped under a rock began to float through, hilariously accompanied by the synopsis for the bestselling book I would write about my time spent lost in the errr, farmer’s fields of England.. Hmm.. Possibly not a captivating bestseller in there.. I vaguely contemplated sitting down in the middle of the field and crying til someone rescued me.. Except no one knew I needed rescuing, and I am fairly well practised in rescuing myself and so unless I was going to sit down and basically wait until I decided to get up again, I figured I may as well skip the dramatic sitting bit and just keep walking. I had spent most of the time to this point very accepting of our situation and not overly concerned. There was a good few hours of daylight left and worse case I could find my way back to a house of some kind and ask for help. I am not bothered by asking for help these days. It’s just an act of acceptance that I do not know everything and cannot do everything alone, and an opportunity for connection. Plus I like to be helpful and I know how good it feels to help others, so what right do I have to not let other people experience that same sense of joy and satisfaction by letting them help me.

Anyway, I kept walking, following the dog. We also seemed to be following footpath signs, but kept ending up at dead ends, or hedges we couldn’t get past. It was crazy. Everywhere, even if it was signed as a path, just seemed to take us to the “wrong” place. I began to look around again. I knew the house was on top of a hill and so should be visible from somewhere. Finally I saw it. I was 95% sure it was the right house anyway; it’s not my house so I don’t know it that well! But it looked right. I recognised some features and the only other two properties near it looked right too. So I began to try and get there. I swear this was worse than when I couldn’t see the house. Now I knew where I was trying to get to, but couldn’t find the way. I just couldn’t seem to get there. I tried the “as the crow flies” approach. That just left us walking a precariously unstable field edge between a ditch and very thickly planted wheat, obviously also involving the delightful English countryside mainstays The Stinging Nettle and The Thistle. We ended up having to backtrack many times before finally I found the way back to a small road and followed that. I thought I maybe recognised it but wasn’t 100% sure. Finally I saw a footpath sign that said the same thing the road says that leads to the house. The dog seemed to know where he was again too. And then, finally, after three and a half hours, there was the house. I was pretty glad to see it I can tell you.

Now, some might say the moral of this story is to not go out without a phone trusting that a rescue dog from Cyprus knows his way around the English countryside he has only lived in for less than a year. I choose to see a slightly different lesson.. No matter how many wrong turns we take, how many times we fall or get hurt, how many dead ends we seem to hit, how many wrong places we find ourselves in, how much we question, how many doubts we have, and how far we must walk, sometimes in what feels like the wrong direction to get there, we will ALWAYS end up where we are meant to be, provided we just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

For me the most interesting observation (besides the surprising shock absorbency capacity of my breasts) was how much more frustrating and exasperating it was once I could see where I was meant to be going. It was like once that vision was there, the pitfalls, and the windy paths, wrong turns, dead ends, sharp bushes, ditches, and the unclear way to reach there was so much harder to deal with than when I hadn’t known where it was I was heading. And I think this is true in life as well. The closer we get to where we are going on our heart paths, or when we are getting nearer to a goal, or a big change, or a new energy influx or whatever – I guess when we are getting nearer to where we feel we want to be – then the path seems to get that bit harder. God throws in more doubts, and more fears, and more curve balls, and more test waves, just to double check we are determined and sure of our trust in the path ahead, even if the immediate circumstances are making it that bit harder to believe we are even meant to be going to where we felt we were headed, or that there is even a path at all when all the signs seem on the surface to lead to more questions and tests of faith. But the action is still the same: one foot in front of the other, breath by breath, moment by moment, and we will all get to where we are going. How could we not?

I was given what I needed today to get to where I was going. When I asked for help, I got just enough to help facilitate my way forwards. When I doubted, I took a deep breath, and kept going anyway. When I hit what seemed like blocks to my progress, again I breathed and went back a little so I could keep going forward. When I fell, I got up. When I was tired, I just kept trusting. When I finally saw where it was I was going, I did not give up. I just kept walking. And that’s all we can ever do. Just keep walking. One step at a time… Even when it feels like things are against us, and the way forward becomes impossible to see, still we must keep walking. We must trust. We must honour. We must keep loving ourselves as best we can, moment to moment. And with that said, I am off for a long hot bath to ease my aching bones and hopefully negate waking up tomorrow feeling like I have aged 90 years over night.

Keep on trudging that road to happy destiny. May God bless you and keep you until then….

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