Archie and I are just back from our first holiday together, and I think he (mostly) enjoyed himself. I definitely did, although the big noisy group was a bit stressful for him at times. He definitely loved all his countryside walks though, and opportunities to chase butterflies in the hedgerows and get as muddy as possible. And hopefully, all that time with other humans has been good for his confidence.
To celebrate twenty years since starting university (twenty years!) nine of us hired a huge rambling house in Eskmeals, on the western edge of the Lake District, for a long weekend. Accompanied by seven children under 6 it made for a lovely reunion and wonderful weekend, although definitely something of a shock for a timid dog used to living with just one human.
Archie barked incessantly at everyone for the first 48 hours (and pretty frequently for the rest of the weekend), which drove me slightly crazy. He was definitely on edge (as was I, which probably didn’t help) and every time someone walked into a room he was anxious, and spent much of his time up on my lap for reassurance. He was great with the children though – he seems to know that they’re no threat and is super gentle around them. Adults, on the other hand, and especially men, he finds a lot harder to trust.
Normally after a day or so with a new human he’s made friends, but I think the group make it difficult for him to relax properly and get to know people individually. He was definitely making progress – a few more days and I’m sure he would have settled much more. I do find it difficult sometimes when he’s being so anxious; I really want him to be more sociable, but I know the worst thing I can do is force it. He’s just such a lovely dog, I want everyone to see it. He’ definitely improving though. I just have to be patient.
It rained non-stop until mid-afternoon on Saturday, which was pretty miserable, but as soon as we’d returned from a mission to kit everyone with wellies (inexplicably for Scots on holiday, we’d all left ours at home) the sun came out, and we had a group pub lunch, then Archie and I had a lovely long walk on the beach at Ravenglass. I even sold my flat while we were out for a stroll, as it was the only place I could get phone reception. I got a lower price than I’d ideally wanted, but I’m thrilled to finally be under offer again. I’m keeping everything crossed that the sale goes through this time…
On Sunday we tackled Muncaster Castle, a great family day out, and dog-friendly, although he wasn’t allowed off his lead. As well as lovely grounds, a cafe, playground and the castle, there was a brilliant birds of prey demonstration, with owls, eagles, hawks and kites swooping and displaying across the woods and meadow to an atmospheric soundtrack – and a valiant, but I think doomed, attempt by the falconers to turn us all into vulture-lovers. They set aside a special area for dogs and owners to view the birds from a safe distance. We didn’t get the excitement of the birds swooping low over our heads (likely to end badly for both dogs and birds) but we had a special seating area close enough to the action to still be able to admire these wonderful creatures.
Monday was the day that reminded me most of childhood holidays, as we rode the miniature steam train from Ravenglass to Dalegarth and had a lovely pub lunch in the sunshine in nearby Boot, walk around country lanes, and then ice creams for the train ride home. The kids loved it (and the adults too). I kept a pretty tight hold of Archie so that he didn’t leap out of the slow moving train, but he was pretty content.
It was lovely to catch up with old friends and their new families, and I hope Archie enjoyed himself too. It was certainly more stressful than being at home in his familiar routine and setting – for me as much as him – but all part of his learning experience, and hopefully I got the balance between group time and quiet walks just about right. Thank you to all my lovely friends for being so tolerant and putting up with his anxiety.
It was excellent driving practice for me too – I’ve now driven in the city, on the M6, twisty country lanes, single track roads with cattle grids and sheep wandering in front of the car, and in pouring rain and bright sunshine, so feel ready for anything. And Archie is a great passenger!
Next week, the Dog Jog…