I continue to use gardening to help me cope with the stresses and strife of life and if the definition of mindfulness is “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique”, then I would add owning a dog to the list of things that contribute to my mental well-being.
We have two dogs. Firstly, there is our own Therapy Dog, in the shape of Ella: the chilled, empathetic labrador who is always there for you and who patiently listens to any of your woes. She is the GOAT when it comes to dogs that we have owned. She is quiet, calm, obedient and long-suffering and actually comes to back us when we call her.
And then there is Badger.
‘Mindfulness’ has a different connotation for him. It is something that involves his mind being full. Full of the fuzz of excitement as he follows trails around the fields of Somerset. So full of such stuff, so busy is he interpreting the scents around him, there is no room in his little Dachshund head for a simple idea like “I should go back to those humans who are calling my name and whistling incessantly”. As the vet said, by way of explaination: “He’s a hound”.
The latest example of this hound’s mind-full-ness occurred on our morning walk at the weekend. All was going fine until he suddenly picked up the scent of who-knows-what. No amount of calling and bribing with treats was going to distract him from quartering and re-quartering the dewy grass which must have been criss-crossed with the aroma of herds of deer, and whole communities of rabbits, badgers and mice. His mood was evidenced by his tail, which was wagging up, down and sideways like a demented conductor’s baton.
Calling was pointless. So physical removal was the only option. Impersonating a keen Collie, I made a long, looping outrun to get behind my own dog, hoping to shepherd him away from the woods and pond, towards the lane. Once in position, I elected to run at the dog, waving my arms and screaming like a berserker, hoping to wake him from his trance to then follow me to the gate. Instead, he started running to outflank me.
At this point in events I had an out-of-body experience, viewing myself in Ultra HD running, in wellies, through the damp grass. Just a few feet away, moving parallel to me, was the silver dapple Sausage. Although he was not wearing wellies, he was still struggling to get ahead of me as the grass was longer than his stubby legs. But he was not deterred. We eyed each other as we ran, and in retrospect I can hear the football pundits’ commentary describing the action:
“It’s poor defending there. It is clear that the dog wants to cut inside on his left foot, so the defender needs to show him the outside channel. It looks as if he has him going that way, but he over-commits and – I have to say – that’s a magnificent change of direction from the wee man as he dips his shoulder and leaves the old timer for dead. He’s beaten the offside trap and is through the fence and into the woods. Brilliant play. But you have to ask yourself: what is the Midlife Gardener doing there?”
It was something I was asking myself as I watched the north end of a south facing Dachshund disappearing into the undergrowth. As he passed me, I barely had enough breath to tell him he was a runt, or something similar.
He led me a merry dance for another ten mintues before accepting a treat in return for the attachment of a lead and a walk home in stoney silence. I should have been angry, frustrated, annoyed, but I was not. Mr Long continues to make us laugh every day. Even when I was chasing him around the field, I have to admit there were benefits, as it was the most intense cardiovascular workout I have had in months.
Rafa Benitez has been urging his players at Everton to turn off the Xbox* (*other gaming consoles are available) and spend more time in the great outdoors. It seems Rafa himself is a keen gardener and, according to The Daily Star “The green-fingered Spaniard has told his Premier League squad to take a leaf out of his own book and get outdoors.” I would wholeheartedly support those sentiments, but would also suggest they get a dachshund like Mr Long. Not only will the players increase their mindfulness by getting out in the fresh air to walk said dog, they might also work on their own sprinting, fitness and tactical positioning too. A win-win.