My Christmas countdown got a bit of a break yesterday when my friend, mother of Aragorn, took me and Sparks to Judy Wood along with her springer spaniel, Holly, and the depressed and anxious rescue Great Dane, Ben.

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Judy Wood is beautiful. It’s mainly beech, and the combination of Yorkshire light levels and beech tree trunks always make me feel like I’m in a cathedral. Sparky loved it because there were loads of great smells and sticks.

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Holly loves it because there are many puddles, ditches and surprise water holes, like this pool of stagnant water at the base of a tree trunk. Ben came along to see what she found so exciting.

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Holly never finds anything in the water, but she has an insatiable need to plunge into it in any which way.

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We walked up along the top edge of the wood, where there’s a nice easy path. Then I got my usual urge to have a look at the water, so we slithered and scrambled down the slope. Half way down I remembered that mother of Aragorn is eight months pregnant (and increasingly gripped by Braxton Hicks contractions). I made occasional amends by grabbing at the back of her jacket to try and steady her but she was on a roll, especially when Ben plunged down a near vertical slope to get himself a drink of water.

Ben, you see, is a special case. Holly and Sparky were merrily flying up and down sheer slopes to reach the beck; Holly plunging into the water for a swim whilst Sparky somehow managed to skip across with nothing other than wet toes. However Ben, as a result of his previous lack of care, has a very weak back end. He can make it down a slope, but is not so good getting back up. We had to scan the bank, looking for sufficiently shallow slopes for him to ease his way out of the water, then persuade him to walk along until he could get out.

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Bit like “the kraken rises” I thought. Holly tried to give some encouragement, but Sparky stayed well clear.

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Then he wondered off to do it again. Ben is definitely a sci-fi kind of dog. I think that Great Danes were perhaps the model for those Star Wars AT-AT troop carriers.

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