Fiona Duff: Walking dog on your own is bit of a pilgrimage

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Every morning I take our dogs out for their first constitutional of the day. It’s better for the carpets that way and, let’s face it, means that I have to get out of my scratcher otherwise I’d be lying under the duvet for most of the time.

In the local residents’ gardens I tend to meet a lot of the same people. Whether we are in possession of two legs or four, we are all creatures of habit.

One of my neighbours, a friendly chap called Alastair, walks through the garden on the way to the local newsagents with his dog Bumble. A Norfolk Terrier resembling a small beer barrel on legs, the sight of Bumble has always brought a smile to my face, which, frankly, is not the natural demeanour of my physog at 8.30am.

On Tuesday, I bumped into Alastair as usual and he was on his own. “No Bumble?” I inquired. “No Bumble any more,” he replied. Apparently on Saturday morning the little dog had been heard having a coughing fit and was then found by his owners lying on the doormat with no sign of life. What a way to go – one little wheeze and then off to that big kennel in the sky.

Alastair then told me that his daily walk to the shops took a lot less time since that fateful morning.

Before then, Bumble’s need to greet virtually every passer-by was reciprocated with a pat, which meant that the journey must have, on some days, seemed like the time taken to complete the pilgrimage route of Santiago de Compostela (pictured).

Us dog owners are a funny bunch. We all know our dogs have real personalities and there is nothing better than other people appreciating this. When my daughter’s friends tell me that Daniel the Spaniel is “the best dog in the world”, I puff up with as much pride as I would if one of the children had received a Brownie badge for road safety.

So poor Alastair’s morning trek for the daily paper might only take ten minutes these days, but I bet it feels like a lifetime.