Friday, 20 June 2014

Cheeky cat adventure

Just round the corner from me, on the way to the park, there lives a cheeky ginger cat. He’s a lovely fella and very friendly with humans. You’ll spot him chilling out on the mat by the front door of his house, or perhaps sitting in the middle of the pavement demanding a stroke from anyone who passes by.

The cheeky cat can present a challenge for me as I walk past with three sight-hounds who aren’t used to cats, but I like his attitude. He doesn’t bother getting out of the way because I’m walking past with a gang of cat-fascinated dogs; instead, we have to cross the road to avoid the mayhem of a confrontation. Sometimes, he will sit at the end of his drive so we come across him unexpectedly as we walk past – on those occasions, he keeps his cool and doesn’t run off, and we often get past him without any fuss. He’ll brook no nonsense but neither will he go out of his way to provoke anyone – usually.

'Did I just see the cheeky cat?'
This morning I was out with Fargo, who is on short walks due to his arthritis so I’ve been taking him out separately from the other dogs. As we turned down the cheeky cat’s road on our way home, we saw that the street was lined with cats. There was no option for avoidance tactics like crossing the road as there was a cat over there too. So we had to run the gauntlet.

Fargo will chase a running cat, but he only shows a mild interest in a stationary one. He’s come face-to-face with the cheeky cat before and they just looked at each other and moved on, so I was in high hopes. The other cats lining the street gradually moved out of the way with no mishaps, and as we approached the cheeky cat he started walking towards us, meowing as if he wanted some fuss. Obviously, I wasn’t going to stop and stroke him but I thought it wouldn’t hurt for he and Fargo to say hello and see what they made of each other.

'Get off of my land!'
Well. The cheeky cat sat down and kept meowing at Fargo in what seemed a friendly way. Fargo put his nose forward very slowly to sniff at the cat, without even touching him – he was very well-mannered about it – and the cat jumped forward, hissed at him and tried to scratch his eyes out! Though in reality, I think he actually only managed to comb Fargo’s luxuriant side-whiskers and Fargo didn’t really notice.

We said goodbye to the cat and moved on. But he kept following us down the road, meowing all the time and giving Fargo the evil eye! We were definitely being chased away from the cheeky cat’s house, albeit in an extremely slow and sedate manner. We made our escape at an ambling pace and were released from the feline glare just before we turned the corner onto my road.

So, the cheeky cat has won this round – and to be honest, he’ll win any others he chooses to engage in. He owns that patch. Good luck to you, cheeky cat. We may never be friends but I like your style.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Holiday hounds head to Cornwall

Last week we went back to Cornwall, to one of our favourite dog-friendly holiday spots.

We stayed in ‘Beau Tunnel’ the wonderful converted Nissen hut at Boturnell Farm Cottages near Liskeard. There were plenty of other dog-families staying on the farm, but our nearest neighbours were the chickens (and ducks and guinea fowl).

Boturnell Farm is very dog-friendly in a refreshingly realistic way. For example, nobody pretends that dogs who are allowed on the furniture at home are going to stay off it for a whole week while they’re on holiday. Instead, they provide throws instead so that dogs and humans can relax (although I always take a load of my own throws too – you can never have too many with four dogs about). You can take as many dogs on holiday as you like at no extra charge, and there’s a lovely wood on site where they can scamper to and fro sniffing the country air. We’ve stayed there a few times and we’ll definitely be going back for more. I especially love Beau Tunnel because of its curved, ribby walls, which make me feel as if I’m inside a whale or something.

Boturnell is a fantastic base for exploring Cornwall’s dog-friendly delights and its website includes a handy list of dog-friendly beaches and days out in the area, so you can get some ideas about what to do before you go. We started with a visit to the Cheesewring on Bodmin Moor, where the dogs were delighted to discover the smells of sheep, rabbits and horses as well as the amazing views from the granite tor. 

We stopped off at the Cheesewring Hotel, which proudly claims to be the highest pub in Cornwall, in the village of Minions. Here, the sheep roam the village streets and graze on the green, and we sat outside the pub to watch them. The dogs were unfazed and managed not to bark at the sheep, and were rewarded by some fuss from passers-by and some biscuits from the pub staff.

We also drove out to Cremyll, to explore the gorgeous Mount Edgcumbe Country Park which has oodles of walks to enjoy and loads of gardens, including a lovely dog cemetery with gravestones dating back more than a century. Once you tear yourself away from the park you can take the Cremyll ferry to Plymouth, but we decided to top the day off with a pint by the river instead, at the dog-friendly Edgcumbe Arms pub.

No holiday is complete without a visit to a castle, in my opinion, so next we headed to beautiful Lostwithiel to walk around the battlements of Restormel Castle which dates back to the 13th century – the views were amazing. This castle was built more for show than for defence, but it still played its part in the civil war. It’s pretty well preserved and if you look down from the battlements you get a really good idea of the rooms below.

There was so much to do. As well as visiting these lovely places, we ran around on various beaches in the glorious sunshine (or at one point heavy rain – this is an English summer after all), and ate delicious pasties and ice cream on the sea front in Looe. The dogs enjoyed some fuss in the pasty shop here, and we even found a shop that sells ice cream for dogs! For the last day of our holiday, we took advantage of the fine weather and spent hours exploring the coastal path around Polruan. Then we went back to relax in the pretty little garden outside our cottage, sharing some quality time with Mr and Mrs Chicken who seemed to like hanging around in the field nextdoor.

So, all in all that was a brilliant holiday and everyone had a lovely time. I always think of Cornwall as a very welcoming place for dogs and their people, but every time I visit I’m pleasantly surprised all over again by just how dog-friendly it is. We're still discovering more places we can visit together and I can’t wait to go back there.