Six More City Walks

Basset Hound Illustration: Shutterstock


Rescue Basset Hound Feliz was Carmen’s very best friend – but could he even become her matchmaker?

Carmen grinned at the droopy face, gazing up at her expectantly. Below hooded lids, anticipation twinkled in those bloodshot eyes.

“Go on then, dafty!” Carmen laughed, throwing the yellow squeaky ball across the wooded meadow for her Basset Hound to chase. Finally given the green light, an ecstatic Feliz waddled after it, as fast as his creased little legs could carry him, his chops and long ears bouncing.

He might not be much of a looker, but Feliz was the main man in Carmen’s life, and she was totally fine with that. He smelled better than some men, and he didn’t hog the quilt… even if he did snore. He loved her unconditionally, and acted like she was the most wonderful person in the world, even when she skipped the gym in favour of a takeaway, or hadn’t washed her hair for a week.

Carmen’s spotty wellies squelched in the mud of the leafy lane. Little birds fluttered around the thickets. She loved this little patch of woodland. A parade of towering fir trees stood sentinel on either side of the path. Their emerald pines were deep and rich against the thick white winter sky. It was so different to their usual walks in the city: down the stairs from her 3rd floor flat, out past the kebab shops and laundromats, weaving in and out of perturbed commuters as they filed into the silver glass office blocks. So every Monday, Carmen and Feliz would venture out in her creaky old bottle green Nissan Micra to the wild suburbs, and explore Evergreen Forest park. The change of scenery was a welcome breath of clean country air.

As Carmen caught up, Feliz trotted out from behind a bush, looking very pleased with himself. He dropped his slobber soaked yellow ball at her spotty wellies… then dropped something else. Carmen squatted curiously, and picked up a small crown! Only this crown wasn’t encrusted with precious rubies and sapphires: this tiara was foam, a horrendous shade of bright pink, and it squeaked when you squeezed it.

Suddenly, a well groomed man in a tweed winter coat and inexplicably pristine wellies came thundering out of the thicket. Bounding closely behind him was an elegant, equally well groomed Afghan Hound, silky locks gleaming in the wintery morning sunlight. As they barrelled towards her, the perfectly quaffed man yelled, “Hey! That’s Princess’s squeaker!”

As the immaculate pair squelched to a stop, staring incredulously at the crown thief and her slobbering sidekick, Carmen couldn’t help but eye roll. “Princess?” Perfect. “Here.” She held out the foamy pink crown, still glistening with Feliz’s slobber. The man looked horrified.

Oh, for goodness sake.

Carmen exhailed loudly, as she wiped the ball on her own mud-flecked sweatshirt and tossed it towards the pampered hound. “Here you are, your majesty.” Before the human companion could say another word, Carmen stomped away, Feliz squeaking his own yellow ball as he trotted after her.

One week later, Carmen was back in the park, holding Feliz’s precious yellow ball while he was busy chasing a stray leaf down the path. “Oh, great,” Carmen mumbled under her breath, when two familiar blonde figures emerged from the line of misty trees, heading straight for them.

Carmen would prefer to take the lesser used nettled cut-through than risk another hostile encounter with Princess and her escort. But Feliz clearly didn’t feel the same. He surged forward, dragging Carmen along behind him!

Feliz and Princess greeted each other like long lost siblings, jumping and yelping, and rearing up to lick each other’s face. They giddily bounced around each other, squeaks filled the air as they obliviously gnawed their trusty chew toys in the chaos. Carmen and the stylish gentleman silently swooped and weaved in awkward silence as they tried to escape the tangled knot the dogs had woven into their leads. The hounds bounced around their humans in excitement, only making it worse.

“Feliz, sit still!” Carmen scolded, as Feliz defiantly squeaked his yellow ball and looped another knot in the leads.

“Feliz? That’s an… unusual name,” the man said, curiously looking up from the tangle for a moment.

Carmen huffed, so small talk it was then.

It’s the Spanish word for Joy. Feliz was from a charity that rehomes Spanish street dogs. He didn’t have the best start in life, but you would never know it. Everyday he’s impossibly happy, and makes everyone around him happier…

Her words trailed off. It made her emotional to think about Feliz’s turbulent life before she brought him home, and the unending joy and love he brought to her in return.

The man’s brow was knitted, but he wasn’t judging her, he was listening to her. “That’s wonderful.” His voice was kinder this time, soft and calm. “He’s lucky to have you.”

Carmen smiled at the droopy dog as he scratched his ear with his back foot. “No, I’m lucky to have him.”

As the leads came loose, the Afghan trotted over and nuzzled Carmen’s free hand. “Well hello again, Princess, was it?”

The man grimaced.

Yeah… I made the mistake of letting my Year One students name her.

“Actually, her full name is Princess Rainbow Unicorna-saurus Rex, but it’s a bit of a mouthful.”

Carmen snorted with laughter. She was pleasantly surprised. This uptight germaphobe had a sense of humour, and he worked with children – he must have the patience of a saint!

Spurred on by her laughter, the teacher introduced himself as Kevin Hammond, and explained the intricate politics of 6 year olds campaigning for their favourite dog name. It could get vicious!

Without realising, the foursome had started walking, and had done a full lap of the grounds, the four legged friends leading the way, while their human companions chatted.

“Maybe I’ll bump into you next week, Carmen?” Kevin mused as they parted.

“Maybe,” Carmen called over her shoulder, as she headed for the car, “Bye, Mr Hammond!”

They did bump into each other next week… and the one after that – and after that. Every Monday morning, the pair and their furry sidekicks would meet and wander the wooded grounds together. Too early and remote for other walkers to interrupt, they could laugh as loud as they liked. The trees and shrubs became lush, the weather cheered. As the dogs chased their squeaky toys and each other among the trees, Carmen and Kevin learned more about each other.

It started off light at first: he liked pineapple and anchovies on his pizza, she did a skydive last year and cried the whole time, they both were embarrassingly competitive when it came to pub quizzes. Then as the weeks went on, the surface level chats became deeper conversations. Kevin opened up about his battle with dyslexia, and how he wanted to become a teacher to help other disillusioned young learners. Carmen shared how she quit her corporate job in HR to start her own business. Inspired by Feliz, and as she’d always been a dab-hand at sewing, she created her own line of dog collars and bandanas, also sharing her surprise at how quickly her little kitchen table business had taken off – she couldn’t order fabric fast enough to keep up with demand, and she was on a first name basis with the staff at the local post office. Kevin shook his head in awe, and admired her courage.

Several months into their Monday meetup, Kevin opened the car door for Princess to leap from the backseat, then proceeded to lift a stubby-faced dusty grey French bulldog down onto the gravel. It was one of those trendy, inexplicably photogenic dogs, the companion of a stylish social media influencer. Maybe his girlfriend’s? Carmen’s heart plummeted into her stomach as they made their way over to her, and she plastered on a smile.

“Well, who’s this?” she asked, scratching the bulldog’s ears, trying to mask her disappointment.

“This is Gary. He’s my nan’s dog. Nan’s had an accident and can’t grip the lead, so I’m designated dog-walker this week.”

Carmen felt a wash of relief that there wasn’t a girlfriend involved, but then felt horrible again as she thought of Kevin’s nan, frail, old and injured.

Oh, your poor nan! I hope she’s OK? Does she have someone to take care of her?

Kevin let out a snort of laughter. “Oh, believe me, she doesn’t need anyone to take care of her! Do you know how she hurt her arm? Overdoing it at the bowling!”

Carmen’s jaw dropped open.

“Yep. She challenged a team of body builders in the next lane: the first to triple figures. They’ve invited her to join the team when she’s back in action!”

The pair laughed as Carmen made a mental note to order some bowling pin fabric: a bandana for Gary would make a great get well gift for Kevin’s nan.

As the months flew by, the pair laughed, consoled and shared their lives. The dogs played and barked and squeaked their toys. Carmen never thought she would say this, but Monday mornings had quickly become her favourite time of the week. She ticked off the six city walks that separated her from Kevin and Princess’ company. She stored up her stories and experiences from the week, eager to share them with her walking companion at their Monday debrief. She wondered how his week was going, if little Pippa in his year one class had finally remembered her PE kit. Had his nan become the team captain of the Bowling Body Builders yet? Was he wondering how her week was going?

As time went on, they dawdled more and more slowly as they reached the end of their woodland walk and the carpark loomed into sight. As she loaded Feliz into the boot, squeaky toy hidden below his chops, Carmen sighed. This was always the hardest part of the week, the furthest away point from seeing her friend again. The key word was friend. Although she had that flutter in her tummy every time she caught sight of that tweed blazer among the evergreens, he’d never once hinted at going out. He’d never so much asked for her number. He just saw her as a dog walking companion.

Carmen dwelled on this during their drive back to the city. She tried to shrug it off as she set to work sewing that day’s order: two sets of matching red tartan bowtie and collar, and a black bandana covered in tiny skull and crossbones. Feliz snored in a wrinkly pile under her chair. At the end of a long day, fingertips sore, she flopped on the couch dejectedly. She thought about Kevin and his kind laugh. Until next week, friend… just six more city walks to go.

Sensing her deflated attitude, and never one to see his human sad, Feliz scuttled across the floor, heaving himself on to the sofa. Carmen scratched his ears gratefully. Looking at her with those droopy sympathetic eyes, Feliz offered his squeaky toy as consolation.

Carmen shifted her weight up onto her elbow and reached for the wet toy.

Feliz, you little thief!

She held in her hand not Feliz’s chewed up yellow ball, but Princess’s precious pink crown squeaker! Carmen squinted and wiped the crown: there, below the layer of slobber, was a scrawly message, written in black ink. It was a phone number! And below those beautiful digits was a short, wonderful sentence: I can’t wait another week.

Startling a yawning Feliz, Carmen leaped from the sofa and grabbed her phone, frantically tapping at the screen.

It was just minutes before her phone pinged. Feliz raised his saggy eyebrow curiously, as she slid across the apartment in her socks. Grabbing his lead that hung on the wall, she smiled at the Basset Hound, saying, “We’ve got a squeaky toy to return, my furry little matchmaker. Fancy another walkie?”

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Allison Hay

I joined the "My Weekly" team thirteen years ago and, more recently, "The People's Friend". I love the variety of topics we cover both online and in the magazines. I manage the digital content for the brands, sharing features and information on the website, social media and in our digital newsletters.