Walks along the river

by Heather

Now that the weather has cooled, I’ve been taking walks along the nearby river. There’s a network of paved and gravel trails that run along it, I’ve been told so extensive that no comprehensive map exists. I’ve been using the gravel trails as my feet seem to prefer them.

Last time I went I saw many water birds–perhaps half a dozen white cranes, which seem to like inlets for their fishing, and even more blue herons. Today I went earlier in the afternoon and saw none of these, but did see perhaps a couple of dozen ducks, some mallard, some brown, all swimming together below a dam, with birds of prey soaring overhead.

Across the river, a man and his foxy little dog were walking along the grassy bank. I couldn’t identify the dog’s breed from across the river–I suspect he may have no pedigree–but his coat was red with a short white ruff and a white tip on his tail. He was full of life and clearly enjoying his outing. The best part was when he walked seamlessly off the bank into the river and swam for awhile. He kept his white-tipped tail above water at all times, and actually wagged it as he swam! Here, I thought, is a dog who really knows how to have a good time.

There’s a unique two-sided water fountain by the trail. One side is for people, and the other, with the button at waist level and the fountain just above the ground, for dogs. I’d like to see if my dogs would drink from it, but sadly they are not good walkers. I’ve taken two of them walking on the trails before, and neither experience could be characterized as a great success.

When taken for a walk, Cherry makes it her business to select the very best patch of grass, or the very most beautiful lawn, and then makes a deposit, which I then have to clean up and place in an appropriate receptacle. She’s also a slow walker, because she needs to sniff everything, and then respond appropriately to all the other dogs’ ‘pee-mail.’

Gracie I suspect may have been dumped at one point prior to ending up at the puppy mill from which she was seized (along with 5000 other dogs). That would certainly explain her walking style. She will walk no further than two blocks from the house, and then she stops. No more than one block is her preference. Off leash and of her own free will, she goes no further than the next door neighbors’ yards on either side. On leash, when she stops walking around the two-block mark, the most mulish look appears on her little face, and she will walk no more. I took her to the river a couple of years ago, thinking that she might walk further with me if the house weren’t nearby.

And what I learned is that if the house isn’t there, the car will do just fine as a landmark. I ended up picking her up and carrying her, and I heard probably two dozen identical jokes from the people I subsequently met on the trail about how I was giving new meaning to “taking the dog for a walk.” So … I haven’t done that again.

Cookie is such a persistent herder that there is no taking her for a walk on leash. Unless I use considerable muscle to keep her where I want her, she’ll circle me and wrap the leash around me. And she’s so fast and skittish that I hesitate to attempt to walk with her off leash.

So I walk without my dogs.

After walking the trails for an hour, I notice that my hips and shoulders feel looser, and when I sit down afterwards, I can feel my quads twitching for awhile. One of the random bits of useless knowledge rattling around in my head is that there are fast-twitch muscles (possessed by Olympic sprinters) and slow-twitch muscles … mine have not been examined by an expert, but I feel I have an excellent guess as to which they are. I’m trying to recall a single occasion when I felt an urge to sprint, and coming up with exactly nothing.

It’s lovely to be able to connect with nature–masses of mature trees, the flowing river, the wild birds–right here in the city. In the distance I can see the downtown skyline, and today I thought also my office building with its light blue glass, from which I was very pleased to have the afternoon off. I started to look more closely to make a positive identification, and then decided that wasn’t at all necessary.

Of the other people I saw, a few were around my age. Many seemed to be college students, one guy (“This is Charles”) was conducting business on his cell phone, and a few were retired. One particularly ancient man was diligently riding his bicycle up and down a short stretch of trail. So many people locked away in those buildings on the skyline, so few out here enjoying the beautiful weather. I thought how lovely it would be to create my own schedule and come here whenever I liked.

I hope to enjoy many more river walks before winter begins in earnest. And also to design a way of earning my living that allows me to come here whenever I like.