On the Heath, I can hear the telltale frantic whistle before I catch sight of its owner or the unruly dog she is attempting to call back.
Looking down at my own dogs walking happily by my side I feel a reasonably firm sense of certainty that they would come back if I called them but it hasn’t always been like that.
I can see the delinquent hound now, running at full tilt with another dog’s toy firmly in the grip of her jaws.
More frantic whistling.
A man with an obedient collie I see most mornings pass.
“That’s a highly trained dog you know,” he says, nodding towards the chaos with a smile.
Last week, during a brief conversation with the wayward pooch’s owner she said,
“I feel like a failure. She’s my first dog.”
“I’ve been there,” I thought to myself remembering times on that very patch of ground many years ago when my own first rescue would chase postmen down, stop traffic by wandering into the road on the busy roundabout, having given me the slip, and then make his own way home to be found sitting on the step just when I had given up hope of ever seeing him again.
It’s easy to feel like a failure when you’re in the midst of something and finding the success that was there all along only seems to appear sometime afterwards.
Later that day a question came from a client who, having switched careers and taken a lower-paid job as a result, is struggling to make ends meet.
She feels isolated, left behind and a failure.
I tell her the story of a younger me in 1990 trying to choose between going travelling across the USA or buying a house.
I like to think it was pragmatism that made me choose the latter but it was more likely fear. Anyway, I bought at my absolute limit and less than a year later “Black Wednesday” struck and I had no money for anything.
The fire in the living room, my only source of heating, was capped off by the gas company that winter because it was leaking. We went to bed in our coats until the spring.
When it all got too much I’d travel home to my mum for food and I often felt like a failure.
But failure is a state of mind.
Renowned for my lack of DIY skills I will always be looking for the part that went wrong rather than the bits I got right.
My late father-in-law, on the other hand, could make anything from whatever he found in a skip and probably never contemplated failure whatever the state of the finished job.
I will add one caveat. The day he put up a fence for us and drank two litres of strong cider causing him to stagger into the final fence panel which gave way under his heft and left him amongst the peonies in next doors flower beds.
But he would have pointed to the nine panels he erected perfectly rather than the splintered one that lay beneath him, and who is to say that’s not an accurate reflection of the truth?
When I next see the lady with the whistle I’ll remind her that she rescued a street dog who would, at best, still be living in a cage if it wasn’t for her.
While I’m at it, I’ll try to remind myself that forgetting to save the first draft of this post I wrote yesterday and having to begin the whole thing from scratch was not really a failure because, like the whistling woman, I didn’t give up.