Wednesday, February 08, 2006


“Oh, Ms Roberta Smith
You sure look delish,
You’re everything that a hungry creature might want.”

These days Hub is working, so guess who has to walk the dogs? I do.

Now Hub and I have always walked the dogs in a large block of woods behind the house. These woods have towering spruce and poplar and heavy underbrush, and after the drought we had a few years ago, plenty of deadfall or failing trees leaning on others for support. The trails are narrow and so thickly walled with bush that even on a sunny day, portions of the winding trails are as dark as the open fields are at nightfall. The Grandchildren call it our ‘enchanted forest,’ and it is, except for one thing. Over the years lynx, coyotes, deer, moose, fox, and even bears have been spotted in these woods. So I truly fear walking in the woods alone.

But now with Hub away at work every day I am forced to walk the dogs in the woods. Dough-Gee insists, and as I told you in a previous post, he uses the fact that it's the Year of the Dog to apply even more pressure. So I've been doing it, and in case you're interested, this is how it went.

Day 1 – Choked with fear I head down the trail. The dogs run ahead. But then as I enter the darkest part of the forest the dogs quickly scatter. When I call them, no response. No barking. No sound. Dog protection? It ain’t gonna happen. So I rush home with fear hard on my heels. The dogs are already there.

Day 2 – Again off we go down the trail. When I enter the deepest part of the woods, I can barely walk without tripping over dogs. Three dogs, all sticking to my legs like glue. Heads down, tails down, and peering furtively into the brush. They seem to be scared. Know what that means? If something attacks, they plan to use me as a decoy to save their own dog-skins. Not good. I rush back home with fear hard on my heels.

Day 3 – We start down the trail after giving the dogs each a snack of deer meat. We enter the most foreboding part of the trail. That is when I realize little dog has a morsel of frozen deer meat in her mouth. I take it away and put it in my overcoat pocket. Proceeding along when suddenly I realize that any creature in these woods is probably very hungry and they will easily pick up the scent of the deer meat in my pocket. Even bears have been known to cancel their slumber in mid-winter if driven by hunger. I chuck the meat into the woods and rush home with fear hard on my heels.

Day 4 – Dogs are snacking on frozen deer meat behind the garage. I call them to go for a walk. Today Dough-Gee brings his deer snack with him. Before leaving the yard, I take it away and put it on a stump by the garage. Off we go down the trail. I’ve only gone a short distant when I hear eerie noises coming from the yard. I am reluctant to head home. Eventually I take the long way round, climbing through the barbwire fence and returning along the road to the front of the house. And as I approach from the front with fear preceding me, I see in the back yard, the source of the eerie bone-chilling noises. Two ravens fighting over ownership of Dough-Gee’s meat treat.

Day 5 – These dog walks are causing fright, breathing restrictions, and huge anxiety. I can’t do it. My God, we live in the country. Any other dogs that live in the country would walk themselves. So I am determined this is the end of it. No more dog walks.

Come evening, Hub comes home exhausted after a 12-hour day. It is time to hit the sack. But oh no, Dough-Gee remembers that we have missed our dog-walk. And it is the Year of the Dog and he knows it is the Year of the Dog so he rattles his dish down the hallway, squeaks his ball, and snitches my knitting from the basket, and throws it in the air. Then he roams the house pushing and bumping things in order to heighten my aggravation. He even clamps down the pedal on my sewing machine and makes it roar. He scatters the magazines on the coffee table. He pulls the tea towels from the handle on the oven door.

But I can’t yell at him. If I do, he folds one side of his loose lip under his teeth, clamps his mouth shut, and with this lop-sided look of distress, he puts his head down and puts on his saddest basset eyes (very similar to the cat’s endearing look in Shrek II).

So, there is nothing for it, but to get a flashlight and head into the woods. A fierce wind is blowing that make the woods creak and threatens to cast drought-stricken decayed trees down with a crushing blow. There are forest sounds from every quarter. The darkness is as intense as a viscous liquid. I stumble down the trails. I hear an owl, the uncanny scream of a cat (maybe wild, maybe tame, can’t be sure). The dogs race about with either anxiety or ecstasy. I can’t tell. They bark, growl, and yip with a diversity of intonations that I am unsure how to interpret. Is it wariness, aggression, joy or fear? We proceed to the interior of the forest. My knees are steadily weakening with fear. My legs feel like water. Only in my worst nightmares have I had such a will to escape and that escape so impeded by fear. I attempt to detach my mind from my body. It is the only way to make progress. And then the flashlight dies.

You know there are other times in life like this. When one is stonewalled. When there is nothing to guide or comfort one’s efforts. When one is totally closed in by utter darkness. We flounder in the darkness, as I am now, but somehow we manage to get through.

So I call little white dog. Too small to protect me but she has value. In the darkness I find I can make out a dim outline when she is no more than two feet in front of me. Little dog is my oldest and best dog. She has a special understanding that surpasses the other dogs and she obeys my commands without any nonsense. I tell her, “Take me to HOME. STAY close, but take me to home.” And she does. She stays close and leads me home. Eventually through the trees I see the lights of home.

So now, do you know what I’ve decided? Walking the dogs in daylight is not so bad. There is really very little to fear.


Anonymous Mike O said...

On the other paw :) I prefer walking my dogs after dark -- it's quieter, the stars are out to dress the night, and I find a peace not present during the day.

8:00 PM  

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