So long, and thanks for all the dogs*

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Relax. I’m not actually going anywhere. It’s where I’m no longer going to go that’s important.

Almost six years after I made what friends and old colleagues probably regarded as a quixotic (ie barmy) decision to become a dog walker, next week I shall hang up my poo bags for the last time.

Not only that but I will be returning – sort of – to the conventional office life I had thought I’d left behind forever.

What’s prompted my about-turn is the rather grim news that I need an operation on both of my feet, thanks to a particularly unpleasant orthopaedic condition known as Haglund’s heel.

Essentially I have bony spurs growing out of both of my heels and into the Achilles tendon, causing severe inflammation and pretty much constant pain. Only an op offers a long-term solution, but the recovery can take up to nine months. The first op, on my left foot, is down for March (NHS crisis notwithstanding) with the second one to be done at some point next year.

Dog walking didn’t cause this problem. The design of my stupid feet did. Daily walking on hard, uneven ground for the last half decade simply exarcebated things.

I’ve already been stupid enough to try walking half a dozen dogs while leaning heavily on a pair of crutches, having torn cartilage in my knee a couple of years ago.

The prospect of trying to herd a bunch of recalcitrant pooches in a downpour while limping furiously and risking further damage to my feet is not something I can contemplate.

I’m too young – yes, really! – to be thinking of walking with a stick or, worse, browsing Gumtree to buy a second-hand mobility scooter.

So it’s all over. Lead On Dog Walkers will be no more by the end of the month. My lovely pack will be led by a new dog walker and I’ll have to start thinking of buying corporate workwear again…

I’m sad that it’s ended this way, but I’m determined to look on whatever bright side I can find in this post-Brexit, post-Trump world.

The one constant in life is change. But change also brings opportunities. So I’m embracing both the change and the opportunity to do something else with my life. Let’s face it, we’ll all be in harness til we’re 80 at this rate anyway so I may as well make a start on the third stage of my working life right now.

I’ll miss my doggies, some of whom have been with me since that very first summer. Alfie will miss his canine chums and his four walks every day. I will miss beautiful sunny days on a hill watching the sun glint off the sea.

I won’t miss horizontal rain, my fingers going through a poo bag, getting accidentally nipped while handing out treats or slathering ketchup on to the neck of a dog that’s rolled in fox shit or worse.

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I’ll miss fighting for my spot on the couch and being the constant centre of furry attention as top dog.

I won’t miss fighting for my spot on the couch and being the constant centre of furry attention as top dog.

Anyway, that’s my tail of woe (pardon the pun). Now, onwards and upwards. I might even find some time now to finish the damn book…

*with apologies to Douglas Adams

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