Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Feast for the Senses

Each morning and afternoon I take my dog, Buddy, out for a long walk and, upon his insistence, we greet nature. I don't always want to go in the cold and snow but he ignores my cranky attitude. Even if I am reluctant to set out, by the time our walk is finished, I’m always grateful that I went. Buddy has a way of showing me how to appreciate these simple walks. I can tell that he views these walks as “adventures” by the way he wags his tail and how he explores when I let him loose. Winter is his favorite season.

Buddy was born in the United Arab Emirates and is, technically, a desert dog accustomed to intense heat year round. I worried how he’d take to the colder weather when I shipped him home. Turns out I didn't need to be concerned about how he would adapt to our Pennsylvania winter because from the get-go, he became my "snow dog!" This is one of our recent adventures.


Buddy and I always love the month of February. It's a small respite in the midst of longer, more harried months. Buddy, definitely decisive today, led us into the woods to savor a feast for the senses.

This morning as we set out, we listened to a busy woodpecker, the shhhhhh-ing of the wind as it rustled through my clothing and Buddy's fur and dissipated off into the trees. We heard a series of whistles of a distant train followed by hundreds of wheels set in motion and the groaning of metal accompanying it. I found my faded old boots sinking into the course, thicker snow from past storms. Buddy cocked his head and observed something in the woods I couldn't hear, or see. Somehow satisfied, he lost interest and moved on.

We slipped past an old now-rusted gate that had once been spray-painted silver and onto a footpath we'd worn into the snow. We walked alongside a chain link fence. I felt the thin, velvety carpet of new snow under the thin tread of my boot. A light curtain of snow fell on us as we hiked along. It felt soft on my face, and melted almost as soon as it touched Buddy's black fur. Buddy and I squeezed through a faded-white cast-iron gate with a sign welded onto the front, “No Dumping at any Time.” Buddy picked up the scent of something and strained against his leash to chase after it. "Whoa, Buddy! Slow down! I don't wanna fall," I scolded. Forced to slow to my speed, he burrowed his nose into the soft snow and it came up white. He wore a big, goofy grin on his face, and nudged me for a treat as I drew near, “You silly creature,” I couldn’t help but give him a quick hug and brush off the rest of the snow. “Oh, you’re getting gray, Buddy.” Otherwise, people would still call him a pup because of his short stature.

We continued on our footpath, surrounded by brown trees and snow, which stretched as far as my eyes could see. I felt cocooned by the rustic beauty. The air felt fresh. The snow looked clean. It was as if I'd just stepped onto the cover of a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle box. What more could we want?

Buddy halted -- every muscle alert. Uh-oh! "Whacha lookin' at, Bud?" I followed the direction of his gaze. "Ohhhh, another dog. I get it." Buddy assessed the situation. We stood at one end of a softball diamond and they stood their ground on the other end. We eyeballed each other. "Ah, Bud! They've turned around. You didn't even bark. Good boy!"

We descended down a gentle slope and I spied the green paint of an outhouse, both doors which were trussed securely in place by a chain link lock. The outhouse stood out a short distance from the bare branches at the edge of the woods. “Ready?” As always when we reached this point, I let him off his leash. Together we sprinted to the fork in the road.

My heart thumped in my chest as I tried to catch my breath. He wagged his tail. He was totally in the moment and thrilled to be free and active. After he ran around for a bit, he nudged me for a treat. Seeing he was out of energy, I clipped the leash back on.

Time to head home.

I peered into the snow. “Look Buddy, deer tracks,” Indeed there were clear, well-formed hoof markings imprinted in the crusty snow. They indicated the deer had gone up the hill in the same direction we were headed. "D'ya think we're gonna see any deer t'day, Bud?"

Unfortunately, deer were not on our agenda.

We reached the base of our last hill. Halfway up the steep incline, Buddy paused. It was his cue to me that he wanted another dog biscuit. His lovely dark eyes followed my hand and I pulled out a broken biscuit from my coat pocket. His dark, moist nose bumped against my palm. For just a moment, he munched it down, and then moved forward once more.

I love these biscuit moments. I think it's because it reflects a certain bond between us. If I have forgotten to bring the biscuits, he gives me a long soulful, reproachful stare that cuts me to the quick.

An hour and fifteen minutes from the time we set out, we slipped back through the door of my garage. There, I opened the door to my apartment. Our routine began once again. I pulled off my dog-walking boots, plopped my hat and gloves into their proper basket and hung up my scarf and jacket on its hook.

"Buddy, time to eat!"

Today was a good day: Buddy made it up the stairs without limping. His ten-year-old arthritic joints didn't slow him down as they usually did.

Thank you, God, for your blessings this beautiful February morning. Lord, I especially thank you for hand-picking such a cheerful companion for me. Only You could transform a malnourished desert dog into the great snow dog adventurer that he has become here in Pennsylvania.

No comments:

Post a Comment