Flora bounds out the door, and flies as fast as her little feet can carry her out across the grass. I trot behind her, letting her lead the way. She zooms along like there’s no tomorrow until all of the sudden, wham, she stops on a dime. I know this is coming, so I manage not to run over her.
She looks shyly up at me without moving her head in my direction. I reach down and pick her up, we walk slowly for a few paces while I give her ears a gentle rub and scratch underneath her collar. Then, I set her down, and off she goes again to the races – until the next abrupt stop, where we reprise with more cuddling.
It’s my morning to walk dogs at the animal shelter – always an adventure. I usually walk about four of them in a session. The shelter is lucky to have a beautiful trail out behind it dedicated to the activities of walking and socializing the resident canines.
I never know who I’m walking until a staff person brings them around the corner amidst the din of barking and howls from the assembly in the shelter. Some of the dogs I have, sadly, walked many times. There are always newcomers, too.
The dogs run the gamut from the little ones, like Flora, to the bigger ones, like Bailey.
It took me awhile to figure Bailey out just a little. He’s very aloof, seems very uninterested in relating. Then, I discovered that he loves ear rubs. He leans into them, hard. After that, I saw the first flicker of recognition in his eyes – as if he was finally seeing me.
Shasta’s a flipper – he gets so excited to be out and running that he just flips around in circles in the air. Danny loves to bring his bone with him and eventually finds a spot to bury it.
They are all investigators of one sort another. Some are sniffers, meticulously making their way along the edges of the trail to see exactly who’s been here before them. Others don’t seem to care so much about scents, but they are visually very alert.
I’m always both sad and happy when I’m walking the dogs. They’ve each come to the shelter with a history of which I know nothing. It’s easy to see the fear in some of them, the lostness. Others seem impervious to it all. I like to think that they were well-loved before this chapter in their lives, but sometimes it’s hard to convince myself of that.
Then there’s a dog like Frank, a real character I walked quite a few times. I was delighted when I arrived one day and learned he had been adopted. About a week later, he was back. Thankfully, he did eventually go home to new adopters.
The dogs are all mysteries, carrying whatever baggage they’ve accrued, but they are open and trusting, even if sometimes rather tentative about it. Sentient beings indeed.
We have a lot in common.
I love my dog walks. I love getting outside in the fresh air with them, roaming around the woods on the trail. We see butterflies and snakes, hear the birds calling, feel the sunshine and wind without a fence around. I talk a lot with the dogs, and give them plenty of pets.
I am always so grateful for this time with them. I really hope it helps them and makes them happy, at least for a bit. I know they do that for me.