Years ago, back in my teens, when the confines of my world were restricted to the lowlands of the Midlands, I had a cute little Labrador called “Shelly”. Poor Shelly was neglected by the rest of my family. I walked and fed Shelly on a daily basis after school. Some weekends, I brought her for an extra long walk to make up for the day or two during the week I might have neglected her.
One warm, sunny day, Shelly and I set out on a walk. A mile and a half down the road I reached the T-junction. I stood on the hill overlooking the expansive green fields and stone walls that are notorious in the West of Ireland. “Left or right?” I asked myself. I decided to go left and onward we walked. I had been living in the area for a year or two by then and still had no idea of where I was going.
Two hours later, Shelly and I were still walking. The afternoon sun sat high in the cloudless sky. It was warm. I felt the heat. Shelly panted but maintained her pace. I still had no idea where I was. I hoped Shelly might pull a Lassie and lead me home, but the thick bitch did no such thing. I was a little concerned. Onwards Shelly and I marched.
Five hours later, I was still on the road. I was now panicked. I recognised no landmarks. The country roads looked the same, merging seamlessly, removing any sense of familiarity. By now I was exhausted. Shelly limped. I stopped every few minutes to allow her rest. I even attempted to lift her fat carcass and carry her. She was too heavy. In the distance a car came over the hill. It was Dad. Dad used explicit language and gruffly instructed me to get into the car.
Shelly could not walk for three days. For three days she sat in her basket. My family accused me of “breaking” the family pet. I felt unbelievably guilty for a few days until Shelly was back to her old self. Her paws made a full recovery and once again allowed her to chase us around the kitchen at the sight or sound of food. Mum aptly called her “Hunger’s Mother”.
Since this incident, I’m careful about going on random walks. I’ve resigned myself to the fact I have no sense of direction. When I jog, I do circuits around the same park a number of times. This ensures I don’t get lost. I often run up the road and back again. Yep, it is as dull as it sounds. Blasting my ears with some of the newest chart hits sometimes takes the edge of it.
This evening, I threw caution to the wind. I left work and instead of running through the local park, I headed for the plush neighbourhoods of Sandymount. The lavish properties inspired notions of grandeur. I eventually hit Sandymount Strand and ran along the walkway of the coast. The sky was clear, the evening was warm and the sea was blue. Dublin bay looked sensational.
On my return journey (in the general direction of work) I took a detour along the beach. I loved it. During the jog, I came across some pictures constructed with sea shells. One picture was of a mermaid and the other was of two fish. For once, during a jog, my mind was active, absorbing the detail of my surroundings. It was invigorating.
I am definitely going to do this again. I will pound the open road and see where it takes me. Yeah, I might get lost. What of it? When on the open road, I am mostly on my own, but for the big, fat lump of dog that runs alongside me. Shelly is there in some form or other. I bet she loved this evening’s jaunt.