Monday, 21 October 2013

A postcard from Cornwall

We travelled to St Issey near Padstow with Polly last week, for our very first 'dog friendly' holiday and had a lovely time exploring the rugged North Cornwall coastline.  The off season weather was mostly kind to us, bathing the countryside in glorious autumnal sunshine during the afternoons and soaking it with an occasional heavy downpour during the night.

Me 'n Polly, enjoying the autumn sunshine in Cornwall

Polly coped really well with the long car journey (about six hours) and seemed to enjoy travelling with us.  She wore her 'Click Safe' car harness and settled happily across the back seat, resting her nose on the armrest between our front seats.  Every now and again Stuart and I would receive a gentle lick or two on the back of our arms to let us know she was still there!  We wondered how Polly would behave in her strange new holiday surroundings when we arrived, but needn't have worried as she relaxed into our barn conversion straightaway and didn't even complain during the night - in fact, at bedtime, she just grabbed 'lambie' in her mouth, trotted along the stone floored hallway to her bed and then hopped into bed waiting for me to pull her fleecie blanket over and tuck her in  - yes, I do know I'm a big ol' softie!

Walking 'The Camel Trail'

Each day we enjoyed a long walk together taking in the fabulous Cornish scenery.  At just seven months old, holidaying is a brand new experience for Polly, so I was delighted that she excelled herself whenever we went out and about, making great efforts to be polite and friendly to the many unfamiliar people and their dogs she met on our travels.  One of our first walks was on 'The Camel Trail' into Padstow, a long walk bustling with bicycle riders, dog walkers and even the occasional horse.  I think Polly found the cyclists a bit of a concern to begin with, but gradually realised they were coming along the trail so frequently, it really wasn't worth the effort of fussing over each one, so before long she let them pass, walking sensibly to heel by my side.  Two very large horses were an entirely different matter though ... she sat and stared hard at the great beasts as they passed by, then excitement and stress overcame her and she hauled me erratically along the trail in the direction they had come from, with her nose firmly pressed to the ground and me flapping at the end of her lead - she sure is strong these days!  The horses weren't in the least bit interested in our Polly though and went on their way without so much as a backward glance in our direction.

Soggy sandy doggy!

I think my favourite holiday memory is the day we took Polly to visit the gloriously long, golden sands of Padstow Beach.  She was so excited and immediately started digging frantically in the sand, then spotted the sea and had a whale of a time leaping in and out of shallow waves.

Splish splash splosh in the sea on Padstow Beach!

It was such a delight to see Polly playing in the sea ... as her recall isn't yet reliable and the beach was very long with lots of other dogs running around, we kept her on a lead and harness, but she didn't let that stop her from having fun!  Hopefully next year I will feel more confident about letting my excitable miss have a little more freedom when we're out and about, so it's back to training later this week to work on that bloomin' recall some more.

On Padstow Beach

We didn't only play on the beach, we also visited some dramatic North Cornwall coastline, putting some of Polly's agility training commands into practice where necessary to encourage her 'up' and 'over' stiles and some rather challenging cliff path steps.  She cottoned on very quickly and also soon learned that 'steady' meant 'hang on a bit Poll, you're too far ahead of me on these steps and might pull me over!'.

Walking the cliff path at Trevone Bay

Of course, as we all know, dogs aren't always perfectly behaved and Polly happily lived up to that reputation by dragging me hither and thither across a beautiful cliff top at Bedruthan Steps where it seemed every step threatened a fresh cow pat for her to either roll in or eat ... big yuk!  After fighting against her pulling for a time, it slowly dawned on me that perhaps training treats and clicker might help solve the problem and save my arm from being yanked from its socket into the bargain. I delved into my pocket, asking for 'nice walking Polly', then flashed the doggy treats and as if by magic, my naughty pickle turned on her charm and tiptoed daintily across the grass ignoring those nasty cow pats - I could hardly believe the transformation!

Visiting 'Doc Martin's' house at Port Wenn ... er, I mean Port Isaac!

Besides the wonderful wide open spaces, we also visited some quaint Cornish fishing villages and I must admit, I was really pleased with Polly's behaviour when meeting strangers ... she received so many friendly pats and compliments as we walked along, that eventually she looked up at any passer-by who didn't say hello, just to check if they had actually noticed her - cheeky eh?!

In seven short months, Polly has learned so much. She loved having our undivided attention on holiday each day, plus lots of fresh air, exercise and interesting things to do and we loved sharing Cornwall with our enthusiastic guest.  In terms of 'Polly's Progress', this holiday has proven our lovely girl is now capable of tackling new experiences without us worrying about how she will behave (with the exception of coming back when called, which is improving but needs more work).  It has also given our holiday experience an entirely new dimension which has been hard work in terms of keeping Polly clean, safe and organised, but even so, immensely rewarding!

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