Ashleigh Young delves into the world of dog walking in Brockwell Park. With photographs by Neil Young.
A park festooning with dogs is a good park. The greyhounds-in-coats, the dishevelled spaniels, the labs with lolling tongues, an occasional rhino-sized Rhodesian ridgeback – dogs give a park drama.
Brockwell Park is Brixton’s finest location for dog spotting. My brother Neil and I set out with a camera and notebook one bleary Sunday morning to meet some of the regulars.
1. Oscar and his owner Pippa (above)
Pippa: He comes from a litter of eight. He was born in Dorset and so he’s had to become a city dog, an urbanite. He found it a little bit difficult at first, coming to the city. This park is a haven; it’s indispensable to us. We come here every day.
You start to develop this really strange association with your dog, whereby they are like your child.
2. Jack and his owner Jilly
Jilly: He has unlimited, unlimited energy. It’s quite a challenge. I’m trying to tire him out right now – I’m terribly hungover.
3. Barney and his owner Neil
Neil: He’s a miniature schnauzer. More people round the park know his name than mine. “Morning, Barney!” I’m like, “He’s not walkin’ himself.”
He always makes me smile. No matter how bad a day I’ve had, he’s always glad to see me. He comes to work with me, cos I don’t like to leave him by himself.
4. Mimi and her owner Simon
Simon: How long is this going to take? I’ve only got a minute. Sit, Mimi. Sit for the photo.
5. Maryanne, Neil, and Milo (15 weeks)
Neil: He’s a very local dog. We’re here every day, sometimes twice a day. We live just round the corner, and his brothers and sisters are often in the park too. He’ll walk for a couple of hours, then sleep, then walk, then sleep. That’s the way to do it.
6. Callum (2) and [Alsation, name unknown] (10)
Ann, dog’s owner: She’s always been good with children. She’s very gentle. When she was a puppy the kids used to get in the crate with her and cuddle up, so she’s always been used to having them around. We’re here in the park every day, absolutely every day. I’ve never had to buy a tennis ball. She just finds them here in the park. I don’t know how she finds them.
Normally we’d go around a few times, but I can’t go quite as far with this one tagging along.
7. Jack and his owner Jeff
Jeff: He’s a retired racer. Most of his racing was down in Sittenbourne. I got him from a rehoming charity down in Kent. I think there’s a greater awareness of the need for the charities. Because once they’re about four, the body starts breaking down. They’ve had a whole career, and then they’re out on their ear. Look at the camera, Jack.
He’s really good company. Very easy. He sleeps most of the time. In the racing world they’re used to being the centre of attention, especially when they win a race. Roughly, I would say he has done around 100 races. Won about twenty. He went to the dog show last year here in the park. He won the Golden Oldies category.