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Pets: Wagging My Tail

Please take me for a walk

Please take me for a walk

There may be something more enjoyable than walking down a woodland path with a couple of dogs, but if there is, I've not yet discovered what that might be.

Two dog faces, four eyes and four ears intensely regard my every move as I tie the laces of my shoes. Their eyes follow me as I move to the door and tug it open.  “Okay, guys, let's go!”

With a bark and a bound, the two streak from the house and gambol about my feet, tails a blur of wags. We set off down the gravel lane, and turn onto a narrow side trail through the woods. How delightful is this dog-sitting job for friends. Their black lab is a charmer and my Whippet-mix loves to visit his friend. And all three of us love to wander their thirty acres of riverfront, marsh and woods.

The two dogs' waving tails lead the way as they trot in front of me. The air is fresh with morning. Lit by the sun, dew still sparkles on the grass and leaves. Bird song accompanies our walk. The two dogs, one midnight-black and the other white and black-spotted like a Holstein cow, stop and interpret the bushes and trees, checking for messages on the wooded bulletin board.

If only I'd been gifted with their sense of smell. They knew, but I didn't, what animals, birds, reptiles or people had passed this way during the night. A fox? A skunk? A rabbit? A neighbor's dog? Only they knew, and they had no way to communicate their knowledge. But from their busy noses, I could tell whatever scent had been left behind was of exceeding interest. And so we wander. Sometimes they led; sometimes they lagged behind, lingering over a scent that merited a long sniff.

Regal, my Whippet-mix, ran as a wisp of wind-blown smoke, his paws barely touching the ground. He stretched out, flying down the trail, free to run—his heritage. The dog on the Greyhound bus could have been Regal. Onward he flew, galloping like a little race horse aiming for the finish line.

My friends' black Lab, Boone, was more a dog of the earth; she ran more heavily and sounded like an express train coming down the trail. But she was fast. I always expected her to plow into me, but for all her bulk of body, she brushed by me with ease.

It was Regal, the fleet, who sometimes collided, his legs faster than his braking power. I learned to step to the side of the trail to avoid Regal's wayward flight.

We found our way to a small meadow, encircled by trees. It seemed a secret room, quite enchanted with woodland spirits.  Here I was wont to pause. A canvas camp chair sat in the clearing. Sitting still, I would see what I could see.

This morning brought a quick flash of buzzing, iridescent green. I flinched a bit, thinking wasp, but no, it's a darting, hummingbird, busy on his rounds of taking in enough fuel to power his jet propulsion flights. He perches on a small branch for a moment to regard me. I regard him. We regard one another. He flies. I sit.

I spy a spiderweb festooned with dew, the sunlight turning the drops into diamonds. My eyes trace the ornate weaving of strength and delicacy.

Here are the dogs. They've returned from their sniffing-fest and sit beside me, one on each side — doggy bookends. As long as I pet, they stay, leaning into me, noses lifted into the breeze, filtering out questions and answers from the air.

A Great Blue Heron flies overhead, looking primeval in flight, a bit ungainly until the powerful wings take hold of the air. Another heron launches from a nearby Loblolly pine. Were they a mated pair, building a nest there? Did these majestic birds nest in trees? I don't know. I'll have to find out. Or had the two herons been resting, making bird love, or observing the water flowing into the nearby tidal pool and hoping for a silver glint of a fish for breakfast?

I ask the dogs, but they just cock their heads and gave me canine smiles, they're not telling. When I bend over Boone to whisper a secret into her ear (how lovely she was with the sunlight glinting off her ebony coat), she gives me a lick on the face. Black Labs have large tongues. I wipe away her moist kiss with the back of my sleeve.

We sit, dogs and human, alone and quiet in the clearing, encircled by trees, for a few more precious moments. I could feel, under my stroking hands, the dogs' growing impatience to be off. More messages to check, no doubt.  So I stop petting, and they, released from human contact, go rocketing down the trail.

Slowly, I rise to my feet. It's hard to break the spell that's been cast upon me by this place. But soothed by the wind singing in the pines, grateful for the company of the hummingbird, appreciative of the architecture of the spider web, I give thanks for this moment away in the natural world. Feeling at peace, I follow the two wagging tails down the trail toward home.

I wished I had a tail to wag, too. That's just how happy I was.

What adventures with your pets stay in your memory? Let us hear your favorite pet story.

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