Day 2 Wednesday 25th March
My wish is for this diary to be one not only of dog training, but also a record of daily life lived under the threat of covid-19, from a personal, National and world perspective.
Faith in human nature cannot be questioned with incredible acts of selflessness being reported by the hour. From footballer Gary Neville putting his 2 hotels into the hands of the NHS, for use of their staff, who for obvious reasons need to maintain a distance from their families. To the scores of recently retired Doctors and Nurses who are returning to duty, in an effort to assist their former colleagues in easing the burden of the already vastly overburdened National Health Service.
A Nationwide call has been put out for volunteers for the NHS, this ground-breaking scheme called for 25,000 people to come forward, to assist in all manner of ways, from the delivering of groceries and drugs to transporting to and from hospital. Even those, who are in isolation themselves, are volunteering to contact people in a similar situation by phone or text to provide much needed company and reassurance.
Within a mere 24-hours the numbers requested have doubled to half a million volunteers, a breath-taking collective act of kindness.
My personal efforts are of a far more modest degree in checking on elderly and vulnerable neighbours and of course my own elderly father.
As I am driving the dogs to the park for our daily outing it is noticeable how quiet the streets are, giving the impression of a permanent Sunday. Even the frantic shoppers appeared to have ceased and are acting in compliance with the new rulings. It is so vitally important that people do not make any more outings than is absolutely necessary.
At the moment my local park has never been busier, I'm sure people who have never before entered its boundaries are now out, enjoying the sunshine and taking necessary exercise. Luckily it is large enough to enable us to remain well away one from another.
Of course, all these children, toddlers and parents chasing balls and playing games provide wonderful distractions whilst I'm training Sparkle. At 13 months old she is just starting to maintain a good attention span, she hasn't been the easiest of pups to train, having a very strong "eye". I do wonder if this is down to her breeding and her Sheep Dog Trials father. All my previous dogs have been from long-established obedience lines and Sparkle being half Sheepdog behaves quite differently from them. She's the first collie I've had who stalks, runs in circles before dropping down, very Sheepy behaviour.
There is no doubting her intelligence though, she learns quickly and easily taking great enjoyment in the process. Her quick and active brain also gives her plenty of opportunities for mischievous naughtiness, I have never known a dog before who can open any door either by pushing or pulling.
Most dogs soon learn how to push a door open but Sparkle will jump up, put one paw on a door handle, the other on the wall before pressing the handle down and pulling it open. When we were in Germany she opened the hotel bedroom and was off, trotting down the corridor to find friends. This means I have to make sure my front door is always locked to stop her letting herself out to go on a jaunt.
As far as heelwork training goes, I am still doing only short lengths and breaking them up frequently with lots of play, this keeps her engaged and focused, whilst building in the necessary drive.
Although she has won a couple of fun puppy obedience classes I don't consider her ready to compete in Heelwork to Music just yet, hopefully when all this present chaos subsides and the world returns to normal she will be more than ready to work her first Novice class. At the moment I see her more as a Freestyle dog as she enjoys learning tricks and doing freestyle moves so much.
I'm sure in time all her "special skills" will be put to great use in our routines.
The latest news today is that Prince Charles has tested positive for this awful virus, underlining the fact that no one, regardless of rank or breeding, is exempt from escaping covid-19.
The UK has now lost 433 people, 20,494 world-wide.
Day 1. Tuesday 24th March
This morning I didn't have an alarm set, the first and last time this will happen!
A routine, however far removed from the norm is vital, not only for us but also our dogs. Strange times lie ahead for them too and whilst they are spared the worry and fear, their exercise and training will be greatly curtailed, leading to weight gain, boredom and frustration unless we are careful and do everything possible to cater for their physical and mental needs.
I am the proud owner of 3 collies, Stella, the matriarch, who will be 14 years old in 3 weeks’ time. Despite her great age she's physically fit and healthy, if a little bumbly in her mind at times. Her requirements are quite different to those of my two youngsters Twinkle and Sparkle.
Twinkle at three years old is the dog I compete with in Dog Dance or Heelwork to music as it's known in the UK.
This March and the previous one we were lucky enough to qualify to compete at Crufts and November of last year we travelled to Germany as part of Team GB for the Dog Dance World Championships, where we were delighted to attain a Team silver place.
She's used to not only a lot of exercise, play and fun, I'm generally out for over 3 hours a day with my dogs, but also a daily routine of training.
Sparkle at 13 months old is very much the baby, far less mature than Twinkle, her Aunty, was at the same age. She too enjoys our long walks and training sessions and being the youngster has plenty of energy to burn off.
So with the current Government ruling of only one walk per day we have to make it count and use it as fully as possible. This afternoon we stayed on the field for 2-hours, the mornings still tend to be pretty cold so bearing in mind the amount of time I intended staying out the afternoons seem a far more comfortable option.
In order to utilise our time fully and fairly we all walked and played together for half an hour before Sparkle had a half-hour one-to-one with me followed by Twinkle. Finally, before going home we all had another half hour together.
All three dogs settled nicely when we returned home, happy and tired and It's in this vein that I aim to continue with our outside activities.
Training and play at home and in the garden will start properly tomorrow, first thing in the morning and the evenings, underline the importance of maintaining a routine.
In a cruel Twist of Fate, after months of rain the weather has finally changed to warm and sunny, however cheering it may be to see the sun, the longing to venture out more often cannot be appeased.
This evening's figures served to underline the great importance of complying with present restrictions.
A total of 422 deaths in this country alone bringing the total world-wide to a staggering 18,259.
Looking back, it's impossible to pinpoint the moment I first heard the words coronavirus. It must have been early in the new year, there was no great moment of Revelation rather it appears to have slowly seeped into my consciousness. It didn't appear to be anything other than a small outbreak in China, the chances of it impacting on me, my loved ones and dogs seemed completely unimaginable. Today the unimaginable struck home with a great and frightening force as our country was put into virtual lock down.
My job along with millions of others has simply ceased to exist due to the present public health regime and restrictions on transport. All of which are very necessary and unavoidable for the foreseeable future.
Bewilderment and fear lie heavy on our homes and families as we face this threat together.
Our situation has been likened to war, but unlike a war there's no-one to vanquish or hate, no country to fight and defeat. This killer is Insidious, invisible and already amongst us. Thousands are already infected, and hundreds are already dead.
Our sole hope of beating this previously unknown disease is in the halting of its progress throughout the population, only achievable by isolating us one from another to as great a degree as possible.
Daily figures from Italy and Spain tallying their deaths mount in horrifying numbers, a portent of our awaiting fight unless drastic measures are put into place and complied with.
These are the facts, the stark reality of what's to come and it's in these circumstances that the keeping of a diary will personally help me cope with the present enforced, humanely unnatural isolation.