The crazy dog walkers of Hampstead Heath . . .

Did you know that the average person watches 3 hours of TV per day? I’m not sure about this statistic (how do people fit this into their day?) but it was in the Daily Mail so it must be right. Personally, I am lucky to watch 3 hours per week. I tried to watch a rerun of Grand Designs the other night whilst listening to the Child read and having a conversation with the Boss on FaceTime. FaceTime is great because it means that wherever he may be in the world, we get to see the Boss in his pants propped up in bed in some swanky hotel or other and he gets the pleasure of seeing if he can get Toffee to respond to him barking at her from the other side of the globe. The Child also gets the opportunity to recount the minutiae of her day including highlights such as the fact that Verity Swithinbottom lost her trainer during cross country and Billy Flabberthwaite doesn’t concentrate in class and the teacher really should do something about that. The bad thing about FaceTime is that the Boss can tell that I am in fact watching Grand Designs and not him.

Having missed out on Grand Designs and having put the Child to bed, I returned to the TV to see what else might be on. “Dog Walking” followed, so of course I watched. This programme was basically some woman hanging out on Hampstead Heath (not in a dodgy way) to see the kind of people that walk their dogs there (not in a dodgy way). It was one of those programmes that lasts an hour and you think: “maybe I should not waste 60 minutes of my existence on this” but it sucks you in and before you know where you are the credits are rolling.

It seems that the dog walkers of Hampstead Heath are either a.) Alcoholics (recovering or otherwise), b.) Bereaved or c.) Completely Bonkers. The breakdown was something like this:

Alcoholics: 20%

Bereaved: 10%

Completely Bonkers: 70%

The Alcoholics (recovering or otherwise) clearly found their dogs a huge support and not just to help them find their way home after a heavy session down the The Old Nag. It was clear, for one at least, that her dog was perhaps the only reason she got up in the morning.

The most heart-rending story was that of a couple who had lost their son in a paragliding accident. They were open about the fact that they got their dog as a distraction and that he was doing a good job. He looked like a Cockapoo and judging by his nutty behaviour he certainly was one in spirit if not in breed.

The most interesting were of course the Completely Bonkers brigade. This included one woman who gave her rather rotund dog Benecol every morning: “It keeps her cholesterol down” and a city slicker who had 5 Bichon Frises and what can only be described as a servant who followed him and his pretties on their walk to pick up the poo (the dogs’ not the city slicker’s). He was always 10 paces behind and I don’t think that was simply so he could spot the poos.

The best of the Completely Bonkers, however, was a lady who was 82 but looked about 50. She walked her dog everyday on the Heath on the lookout for dead bodies. “Oh, I’ve seen a few, Betty always manages to sniff them out.” Now I know Hampstead Heath is in central London, but I was genuinely shocked. Whilst filming, her friend came lumbering down a hill with the dog: “There’s one over there. I’ve called the Police.” “You see,” says the excited 82 year-old: “Is it dead?” The Camera cuts to two Police Officers tentatively approaching the said corpse . . . which suddenly sits up looking rather annoyed about being woken up, clearly having had a good night down The Old Nag. “Oh” says the dejected 82 year-old, with a disappointment so intense I was glad I didn’t walk my dog on any kind of Heath that she frequented.

This programme got me to thinking about dog owners in general. Are we all a bit bonkers in some way? Of course not, these fruit loops just made great TV. And then I thought about the Boss – on FaceTime – in his pants – in a hotel in Istanbul – doing an impression of Shitzu . . .

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