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DOG WALKER

“PARK?” His head tilts slightly and his ears prick up... “I know this word” he thinks, and pesters me to get my shoes and walking jacket on as quickly as possible. This happens every morning of the week.

We don’t have an exact time slot in the park, but we usually get there sometime between 8am and 9.30am. Most people seem to have a regular slot for their walks, but as we don’t, we tend to meet different people and their dogs every day. Change your timeslot by just 10-15 minutes and you’re sure to meet a different crowd. Most days there is usually someone else in the park when we get there, no matter what the weather. They’re a pretty determined bunch these dog walkers.

Most of the dogs know each other and get on very well; the younger dogs play-fight which mean that in the winter months they inevitably end up covered from head to tail in mud. The older dogs just want to chase a ball, dive in to the brook to cool down or try to catch the ever elusive squirrels. Fortunately, the squirrels are too fast for most of the dogs and teasingly escape up in the trees.

You do get to know a lot of the owners, although you usually find out the dogs names first. It can sometimes take weeks and months to work out the owners names, but I guess that’s how it is. Most people are just referred to as a certain dogs owner. Some owners you talk to more than others, but there’s always time for a ‘Good Morning’ or ‘Hello’. However, as this is where you pick up the local gossip, conversation usually flows quite freely. The topics vary wildly from wheelie bin controversies to choice of dog food, from local take-aways to the best time to plant your beans and the progress of your tomatoes.

They say that dogs become to look like their owners (or is it the other way around?). Looking around my local park every morning I can see what they mean. One day, I noticed an elderly gentleman sitting on the bench together with his dog. Everyday they followed the same routine; he would lift up the little dog next to him and together they would just watch the world go by. The dog was a spitting image of his owner, with the same expression on its little face and it made me smile every morning. This was the beginning of the Dog Walker project.

Photograph by Nick Treharne

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ALL IMAGES COPYRIGHT BETINA SKOVBRO 2008

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