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What We Talk About When We Talk About Dogs….

Updated: Mar 21, 2019

OK…I filched that title from a Raymond Carver collection of short stories.

As I was mulling over what on the surface should be a pretty easy question to answer – Can we bring dog(s) to the upcoming Babble walk on Sunday? – this phrase kept popping into my head. I mentioned on my last post that I call my red wagon Raymond as it’s a Carver brand but the reason the phrase keeps popping into my head wasn’t because of the Carver connection. It’s because I don’t know how to answer this simple question without talking to you guys about it – both those of you with dogs and, equally importantly, those of you without.

I can’t even answer the question for my own dog, because the last second-to-last time we did a toddler-speed walk and my reasonably well-behaved dog came along, I couldn’t say, hand-on-heart, that it was an unmitigated pleasure for all the tiny folk attending.

Despite the fact that Babble Rock Toddler-speed Walks are for all age groups, there are generally a LOT of toddlers. That was one of the reasons for starting these walks: to provide a forum for families with little folk who are just starting out on two feet to attend, knowing that we are armed with enough patience to go slowly…I mean v-e-r-y-s-l-o-w-l-y. There are many internet-based groups planning and participating in walks around hills, Munros, forests, and glens that one can join, but most of them go at a pace that is too hard for little legs to keep up with. Many of our members are pre-kid hill walkers, used to striding all over Scotland’s green places, and they certainly don’t need Babble to show them where to go or how to walk for pleasure. But (maybe?) what they have come looking for is a place to join with like-minded people who all want to encourage their little ones to start toddling along at their own pace and who have brought enough patience to do this together. As for me, my disabilities mean that I walk with a stick and always need to go slowly, so my pace is generally the same as your average toddler (except the toddler is usually faster, at least at the start!)

The last toddler-speed walk we did, I left my dog behind. Moomin is a gorgeous, well-behaved but very enthusiastic, people-loving staffie/collie cross, who can’t help but show his love by coming up to people for pats, and running back-and-forth along a trail herding folk in the right direction. On the last walk we did bring him along, the path was extremely narrow and to be honest it was like watching a bowling ball wobble a group of skittles. A couple of parents had little ones on their shoulders, not because Moomin was doing anything wrong but simply because those tiny little tots were not ready to be that close to a dog.

So I’m trying to democratise by asking you all to consider the issues and to tell me how you feel about dogs on Babble walks, whether that is your own, mine or anyone else's. It’s hard, because all dogs are part of their family. If you have a one, chances are on any recent walks you took your lovely hound and your own kids enjoyed having his or her company. And Babble Rock is also about doing what you love in like-minded company. But as to whether either my own dog Moomin or any other dog would be a good fit on a toddler-speed walk on a narrow path with lots of small people…really, is there an answer anywhere in these ramblings…? I’ll leave you with the questions below for guidance (using “he”, with apologies to she-dawgs, for brevity!)

  • Is your dog friendly with other dogs?

  • Is your dog friendly with strangers and kids at close-range?

  • Is he so friendly that, like mine, he’ll run up and down and back up the line demanding cuddles?

  • Will he jump up on toddlers?

  • If he scares small people, can you put him on a lead, and will he be happy to be on one?

  • Can he handle the sight of sheep? There are usually a few sheep on our walks.

  • On a narrow path with a whole line of people on it, will he stay close to your side or will he, like mine, run up and down it potentially scattering tiny skittles as he goes?

  • Is question 3 the same as question 7? Ha...that was a trick! But also I've reiterated it because it's the most important one...

This is a very general post about dogs and Babble walks. It was written with regard to the upcoming walk around Cornalees Nature Trail on 26th January but I will upload this post to the website for future reference when this question come up. As for the forthcoming walk for which these questions are still unresolved in my head, I’m going to go back on to the event page and see what the discussions come up with. I hope you realise that all this waffle has come from a place of wanting EVERYONE to feel like Babble Rock walks are an inclusive event and that all your needs and enjoyment are my priority.

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