For those of you following my Instagram account, you may be familiar with the term ‘Rolkies’, but for everyone else I shall explain…
Rolkies came from my love of contracting words to make new words or phrases, it’s simply Rolling Walkies. I’ve long been in the habit of substituting the word walk for roll when referring to myself. Even if it’s a phrase or sentence that doesn’t really need clarifying that I’m not actually on foot, it’s almost second nature now. ‘Princess’ Penny however, does walk, so another combination word it is!
This is Penny, she is not my dog, she belongs to my lovely friend Sarah who lives just around the corner from Memory Loss Manor.
When I bought Salazar (my power chair), we joked that I could take Penny for walks with my new-found independence, but the more it was thought about, the more it was considered a realistic possibility. So, one day we bought a cheap lead and collar set, used the collar to clip the lead to my chair and I joined Penny & Sarah on a walk. Penny caught on to the concept of being attached to the chair quite well, the only problem was that she kept trying to walk towards her Mum, in front of me, which meant having to do several emergency stops to avoid running her over!
The next time, I attempted it on my own, collecting her from her back garden, and she was as good as gold. She trotted alongside the chair quite happily, and now gets very excited when she answers a call from the doggy door and finds me in the back garden ready to take her on a daytime adventure.
Over the last few months, we’ve got to know each other and both learnt new skills to enhance our afternoons out. Penny has learnt to cross the road on command, I’ve learnt I need to watch her in case she decides to stop to sniff something or go to the bathroom, and let go of the controls quickly before she gets jerked away 😬 (I’ve now bought a lovely springy lead to give us both a bit more time to stop). If she does go to the toilet, I’ve also bought a long handled device that allows me to pick up her doggy deposits without reaching to the ground and risking tipping myself out.
Princess Penny was quite content to run around the park on her own, chasing me in my chair or playing with children (she loves children, and they love her), until one day we found a lovely lady with tennis balls. Penny went after the ball she was throwing for her own dog, caught it and we had to persuade her to give it back. She then proceeded to follow tennis ball lady all around the park, completely ignoring me and my attempts to persuade her to come home.
So, I decided to try to find a way of throwing her a ball. I turned to Amazon and was not disappointed. Presenting the NerfDog NerfGun. It fires a ball a good 50ft, and although it takes a bit of effort to retract the firing mechanism, it takes considerably less effort and strength than physically throwing the ball would – which I wouldn’t be able to do even if I wanted to use an entire day’s worth of spoons. She absolutely loves her new toy, and it’s the only thing she’s interested in when we get to the park. She’ll bring it back to be fired (making sure it’s close enough for me to pick up with the gun), until she decides she wants a rest, and then she’ll go off for a rest under a nearby tree or bush.
Emotionally, getting out for Rolkies is doing me the world of good. I look forward to it, and save my spoons so I can get out of the house and into the fresh air on my good days. Even though I spend so much time in one room and without human company, I find I can be quite content to go out with just a dog for companionship, because I feel a huge weight lift off my shoulders when we get to the park and I’m close to nature again. It’s not exactly camping in the woods, but it’s a welcome substitute, especially as I can get to it within 15 mins of leaving the house. I still do benefit from some human interaction when out with Penny. She’s an exceptionally friendly pupper – she’ll flop onto her back for tummy rubs for anyone who offers her fusses (worst guard dog ever, best social interaction dog!) – and wants to say hello to everyone we come across, many of whom oblige. We once spent 10 minutes on a local street with a family whose 2 children showered her with attention, including a doggy massage with an Elsa doll!
More recently we’ve tried going for coffee after our trips to the park. We started off by sitting outside Costa, Penny enjoying a Puppacino, me with a latte and watching the world go by on the high street. Once, we got caught out in the rain, so I quickly googled dog-friendly places in town, hoping to find a pub or somewhere we could shelter, and it turned out we’d been passing a dog-friendly cafe all along. Kuni’s Coffee & Comics is a very doggo-friendly cafe who welcomed us both in and gave Penny water and some free doggy biscuits She was very excitable at first, having never been inside a business establishment before, but now she will sit very nicely and wait for her Kuni biscuits whilst I enjoy what I’ve discovered to be the best latte & cake in town! Obviously the tummy is offered to the staff & customers when they come over to say hello, so she’s getting herself a (good) reputation.
Going for coffee dates with a dog might not seem the best therapy, but animals really do provide amazing company. Since losing Billie last year, and not being allowed another pet, Penny’s company really does improve my mental health, even if it’s only once a week at most. It’s also cemented the idea that I can manage an assistance dog when I eventually move to somewhere I can keep an animal. Although they’re not even accepting new applications at the moment, hopefully I can get on the waiting list soon.
For more updates on Rolkies & Penny’s progress, you can follow my Instagram account @Stacecarracecar. I post an update every time we go out. Penny is not a fan of selfies, but is always happy to pose for photos herself.
[Video Caption: Firing the NerfGun for Penny, she retrieves it and drops it in front of me where I can pick it up using the gun]