The countryside was ablaze as we drove out through Hollingbourne to meet Polly's new pals at Hucking Woods and if it hadn't been for golden leaves everywhere, it would have been hard to know we were in the middle of November. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and it was the perfect day for a tromp through the woods.
The dogs were delighted to meet up again and eager to set off exploring, so we abandoned all hope of walking them neatly on their leads and let them 'go play' as quickly as possible!
It is such a joy to watch three bouncy young dogs chasing excitedly through the undergrowth together and after joining them for the first time last week, I am happy to say Polly seems to have been readily accepted by Dudley and Molly, as part of their woodland gang.
And while the dogs raced around, it was lovely for me to get to know Jane and Sue a little better too ... sharing an interest in dogs is a great icebreaker for making new friends.
I should point out, this is no mooch for our pooches! In fact it's a solid hour of rough terrain hiking and often boggy underfoot. We even threw in some proper recall training and the dogs responded positively on cue each time ... mature cheddar treats work wonders with Polly and I can't tell you how much of a thrill it is to have her running free with her friends, then returning to me when called!
Jane and Sue took me to find 'the old man' this week and I wondered who they were talking about until I spotted this carving sat at the top of a field enjoying his view ... and who wouldn't? What a fab way to pass a beautiful day!
By the time we headed back to the car park, our dogs were tired of running around, so toddled happily along the pathways with us. Not so long ago I would never have believed I would one day be able to walk Polly without her lead and have her walk peacefully alongside me, simply because she wanted to ... she's come such a long way and it's clear Molly and Dudley have taught her more quickly than I ever could.
An Autumn morning dog walk in Hucking Woods is a spectacular way to start a day ... the rich golds, reds and bronze bold against the glorious landscape certainly make up for so much squelchy mud underfoot.
And speaking of mud, there's nothing for it but to plonk poor ol' Polly straight in the bathtub when we get home. There's no doubt cream dogs are very hard work to keep clean this time of year. Thankfully a good splosh of honey and oatmeal shampoo soon turns my girl from murky mudwump brown back to clean cream again!