The time was 4.02pm.
I was taking Madam Dog for her daily walk. A pleasant day smiled on our outing. It was fine but neither hot nor windy – perfect for such a pursuit.
I was using the long lead because it gives her a bit more chance to explore and it adds distance to her walk as she goes back and forth, round and round, above, beyond and across. And down burrows.
The short lead means she walks at my pace always just under 1m from my hand. The long lead means she can be a bit of a roving satellite, sniffing here, sniffing there, getting ahead, falling behind.
In short, the long lead leads to a longer, more energetic walk than the short one. That's the long and short of leads, I guess.
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With the long lead, the main hazard is what I shall call the yank factor. If she suddenly spots something dogs chase – a rabbit, a pussy cat, another dog, a horse, a sheep, a quail, a thrush, a horse float, a moth – there is a sudden yank when she takes off at full speed after it.
The word yank is probably not strong enough to convey the force and suddenness with which any slack in the lead is taken up. If I could portmanteau the words tug, jerk, jolt and wrench in a euphonious manner, I would.
If you're not ready for the force you can suddenly become horizontal rather than vertical.
And so it was, at 4.02pm on that clement day, that I was guilty of such a moment of inattention. In one direction a cloud formation – puffy and pillowy – had stolen my gaze; in another direction a fleeing rabbit had stolen hers.
Over I went.
They say when a disastrous collision or such is about to happen, your whole life flashes before you in a nanosecond. I knew this was probably not going to be terminal but there was plenty of concerned debate to fill my nanosecond.
I knew as soon as I felt the yank (or tug or jerk or jolt or wrench) that I was helpless, that I was a goner.
But a nanosecond still gives time to plan strategies and consider consequences. There is still space for a narrative within a nanosecond. Between the vertical and the horizontal there is time for weighing up options.
I could, for example, release my Tarzan grip on the looped end of the lead. I had time to work out, however, that the harm a rocket dog trailing 9m of rope could do to herself was too much to risk.
I was still about 20 degrees from vertical. I knew the result was going to hurt me but I must, at all costs, cling to the rope. The medical centre was still open – it was only 4.02pm, after all – so a trained person there could, with painful precision, tweezer out the little shards of twiglet and the tarseal hundreds and thousands that were about to embed themselves under the skin of the ball of my hand.
I'm still only about 30 degrees from vertical and I can already hear the nurse. "This is going to hurt."
I must have been at about 45 degrees when I realised that, if I kept clinging, the force would be enough to pull me along – an ageing blob being towed along the roadside by a runaway dog.
I got towed.
And that was how my flesh gathered up its bits and bobs of waste matter from the roadside.
But Madam Dog was safe.
As I examined the wound on my hand, I caught sight of my watch. The time was 4.02pm.
Wyn Drabble is a teacher of English, a writer, musician and public speaker.