After three weeks of enforced indoor activity it is finally time to take the puppy out. We are both a little nervous, him whimpering nervously, reluctant to leave the safety of the house, me, feeling like a new parent exposing her new born to the outside world.
We head off down the High St, the dog walking beautifully by my side, like he's trying out for Crufts, except he doesn't so much as walk, as prance in a bouncy kind of way.
We are stopped many many times and I reply, 'yes, he's 8 weeks, a labradoodle, a boy and yes isn't he cute.' I don't mind, I am proud as only a mother can be, although teen daughter insists I am in fact 'Grandma' as she is mum, but I'm not sure I'm quite ready for that one.
We arrive at the park and the first person we meet is a completely insane Italian woman who lies down on the grass, hugs and kisses the dog and positively gushes about how gorgeous he is. He, of course loves it, and I try my hardest to stick to the, introduce yourself first, then the dog', rules I learnt at puppy training. It doesn't work and we move on, with the dog thinking this is the reception he's going to get from everyone. He bounds up to some teenage girls, who scream, 'aah hes attacking me, he's biting me, innit Lateeeesha'. This isnt going to be as easy as I imagined!
We spot a couple of big dogs heading towards us and I try to assess if they look scary. One of them is a Staff and looks fierce, but I don't want to be 'doggist', besides I have friends with lovely Staffs. Suddenly, we are surrounded by dogs and people in wax jackets and wellies (remember we are in Hackney!), who all know each other. Once again I am saying, 'yes, he's 8 weeks'………etc, etc.
I feel like a new mum at toddler group, where everyone knows everyone else and I don't know where the tea is!! They all start to walk, with the dogs tussling and playing, they move as one and I'm not sure if I should join them. But, as is the way with small children, the dog decides he is one of the gang and has already made new friends, so off we go.
Later that week I am out at a local restaurant and on the next table are some of the dog walkers. One of my friends is more established than me in the local canine community, and chats to them. They turn out to be hilarious, with the most interesting ones sneaking out for a crafty fag and staying on well past closing time.
When I first had children I remember feeling nervous about new situations and unsure about meeting new people. As I grew into motherhood, I relished the opportunities to meet some amazing women and great children. It took me out of my comfort zone, opened my eyes to many different worlds and over the years I've made some great friends. I've learn not to judge on appearances and become more tolerant and accepting than I had been in my shallow 'fashion' world!
So, I think I'm going to like this dog walking lark, but obviously I'm going to need a wax jacket and some Hunter wellies!