The warm afternoon sunshine yesterday was too much to resist, so we popped Polly into the car and headed towards Whitstable. The less said about heavy traffic through the town and lack of parking the better, but once we'd abandoned my little car on a side road and found our way to the beach, our visit perked up considerably ...
Polly is an excellent passenger and loves the car. She hops onto the back seat, happily offering her head to have her harness fastened, then either snoozes, or rests her nose on the back window shelf to watch the other cars whizzing along. She's always delighted to have someone else to keep her company in the back and likes to travel with her paw on her travelling companion's leg - yesterday it was my daughter Fay's turn to enjoy that privilege.
Yay, we're at the beach!
It seemed most of the residents of Kent had a similar idea for spending their Sunday afternoon, so the wide promenade from Whitstable to Tankerton was buzzing with all manner of folk, dogs and two wheeled modes of transport. Polly behaved impeccably as Fay walked with her, tail waving high and dappy tongue lolling from one side of her mouth in an excited grin ... it was clear to see she was having a lovely Sunday!
After a brief pitstop for a '99' ice-cream (and yes, Polly was permitted the end of that cone!) I decided we would wander along the promenade as far as the eye could see, to find a quiet stretch of beach for Polly to play on.
She was such a good girl on her lead, punctuating our walk with polite nose to nose hello's with other dogs now and again, but also passing them by without a fuss, if they didn't want to be sociable. Once upon a time, a walk like this would have been a real struggle because so many new sights, dogs and people would have overwhelmed Polly, making her difficult to handle. Not yesterday though, our friendly miss was in her element trotting along cheerfully beside whichever one of us had hold of her lead.
Waiting with Fay
In fact the only times Polly reacted anxiously, were when she met a remote control car whizzing towards her and big black parked motorbike for the first time ... she barked at both and who can blame her, they both probably looked very strange to her.
Seeing the sea!
Every now and again as we strolled along the promenade, Polly would lean towards the sea, trying to guide us down onto the beach to investigate further, so we detoured to let her have a little paddle in the sea, whilst keeping her on her lead. She was very excited by the sea and desperate to play in it, but with small children and dogs playing between the breakers, I decided it would be safer to walk further along the coastline to find a quieter spot, before letting her off lead to splosh to her heart's content. I don't yet have quite enough confidence in my powers of recall in such a challenging new situation - in my mind, a beach, lots of other dogs running loose, kiddies playing, ice-creams and a huge ocean are a 'not-to-be-taken-lightly' challenge!
We walked for about an hour before finding what seemed a good spot to allow Polly her first off lead beach experience - a wide expanse of quiet pebble beach with the tide ebbing away. Seeing dogs running loose all along the way, I did question if perhaps I am a little too paranoid about losing Polly, but on the other hand, I see so many heartbreaking reports of lost dogs on Twitter, Facebook and similar (https://twitter.com/allbearbypaula) I feel calculating the risk carefully, rather than throwing caution to the wind in the name of fun, is the safest option.
Staying close to Dad - off lead on the beach
And I am happy to report, Polly had an absolute blast when I eventually plucked up courage to relieve her of lead and harness and let her 'go play' on the beach! Needless to say, I was a nervous wreck anxiously watching her bounce over the pebbles, straight down to the sea, but needn't have worried as she raced around excitedly, dashing in and out of the shallow waves, but made no attempt to swim and always stayed close to Dad. Best of all, when she was called back from her independent beach fun, like a good girl she remembered her manners and did as asked - which was such a relief!
Letting Polly off lead in exciting new environments is for me, quite a scary challenge, but she has so much fun and exercise when she is allowed to run free, I want her to be able to enjoy this freedom so tend to try and create times when I feel the situation off lead is manageable. This way she doesn't always expect to be off lead and also seems to understand she can have fun when she is invited to, rather than demanding it by behaving badly. At the moment, we seem to be achieving a sound balance between good behaviour both on and off lead, with Polly accepting guidance from me in both circumstances ... so far, so good.
One last play on the beach on the way to our car
By the time we'd played some more, then tramped all the way back to Whitstable town, we were fresh air sleepy and Polly was a very soggy doggy. Despite that, a glance in the rear view mirror as we drove home saw Fay and Polly snoring contentedly together on the back seat!