Poppy’s body clock is scarily accurate. Every morning at 7.30 a.m. she emits a short sharp bark that roughly translated means, “Get up! I need a pee.” The second part of that statement is added to make sure she gets what she wants. We know fine well that in Scotland she can sleep until 9.30a.m. then go to the back door, clock that it’s raining and go back to bed again. The appeal here is the dog walking area. It’s huge and is full of interesting smells – or so Poppy tells us. I feel it’s probably a blessing that the human nose can’t detect some of the things that get her all excited.
Boo is more than happy to join in the walk but being middle aged in doggy years he is more laid back. He would settle for another hour’s sleep for sure but as there’s a walk on offer he accepts it gratefully.
As I strolled round the dog walk this morning in the early morning sunshine, Boo trotting contentedly by my side, we were watching Poppy, nose down doing the full on scenting thing, it came to me that she has a lot to teach us.
Poppy has a passion and she throws herself into it with gusto. She has no idea where it came from, it just is. She didn’t knowingly develop it; she just enjoys it full on. Scenting for Poppy is her great passion in life.
Before we left on our trip we got some help for Poppy and her passion from Karen Stanfield the dog trainer. The problem was that Poppy’s passion was putting her at risk. She would get lost regularly because when her nose was down and her scenting drive on she would forget to listen for us calling her and just keep going. Four sessions with Karen and some really hard work on our part and we had a different dog. Now she responds to the whistle by looking up, checking where we are and running over to be told she’s a good girl. We used to give her treats for doing that but she doesn’t need that anymore. Just a ‘good girl’ will do and she’s free to go back to whatever was fascinating her.
Our job is to make sure we whistle before she’s too far away to find us but she’s co-operating with that too, looking up occasionally to check we’re still visible.
At home, we have a scenting game that we play in the garden, where we hide specially scented soft toys and she finds them. Her accuracy is remarkable. She does it in the dark and finds them in the most obscure places.
Because of the training we’ve done together, Poppy is free to enjoy the thing she loves the most and she is a much more contented dog for that.
The two dogs have another passion. They both share this one – it’s running alongside the bikes on special leads. They can go like the clappers and they get this competitive thing going that involves them running at full pelt while we freewheel along shouting instructions when we need to turn. Without that small refinement they would take us over roundabouts and through fields.
The other day we passed a couple of huskies being walked by a large man who had a lead around his waist to control them. They were so overcome with excitement at our two running along that they nearly pulled their owner off his feet. I’m sure I could hear Poppy laughing as we shot by – and I definitely heard him swearing.
I’ve read a lot of advice about finding your passion and giving it your all. I’ve experienced it too, as a young teenager learning to play the piano and the clarinet. I just couldn’t stop doing it – playing my instruments was all I wanted to do for quite a few years… and like Poppy I needed good training to make it enjoyable. But what now? As we get older does all that stop? Do we give up on our passions when life takes over?
Travelling in the motorhome is a great hobby and we love it – that’s probably obvious – but it’s not what defines us as people. It’s not an end in itself. For me, travelling takes me out of the everyday and into new places and meeting new people. While we’re away I find myself looking at my life and thinking about what is really important. We talk to people we would normally never meet and find out about their lives. We watch people doing their thing and we consider the choices they make. At home it’s easy to forget that we have choices. We don’t have to keep doing what we’ve always done and now, being fortunate enough to be retired and fit and healthy, we could pursue an old or a new passion and give it our all. Or we could give something up to make room for something else.
Watching Poppy completely absorbed in her life’s passion is an inspiration.
Oh and speaking of passions – here is today’s haul from the local market. 9€ in total.
Tomorrow we move on, starting the long road north and looking forward to spending more time in France. Watch this space.