My dog, Athos, pulled me out of the house multiple times a day for ten years. He needed a formal invitation, and at least a mile walk, before he decided to squat. He waited by the door all last winter, ignoring the below zero temperatures. He wanted to go out. We walked all through the village, maybe the woods, the trail in both directions, down to the lake. As he poked his nose here and there, did leg lifts, I looked around. He took his sweet time so I really got to look around. I began to see and learn the rhythm and pattern of the wildlife in the village.
I started to write down what I was seeing out and about. I noted the date and time and place. I composed notes and articles in my head while freezing or sweating and walking along. After awhile I asked Dixie if I could write a nature article for the village newsletter. I was seeing so much. I was reading articles and books that spoke of people, and especially children, getting further and further away from nature and all its wonders. We have so much right here where we live. I wanted to share that and villagers to know that.
I could lead Athos in any direction. My dog, Jamis, has a mind of his own. If he was a human, he would be at Leah's daily, chatting and eating cookies. He does not want to explore. However, Athos was all in. Through thousands of walks with him, I learned where the deer bedded down in the woods, where garter snakes were born in the spring, when and where to see the return of the spring warblers. He sniffed out rabbits, woodchucks and fox. He waited patiently while I photographed owls, hawks, and eagles. He laid on the trail while I attacked garlic mustard invading wildflowers, pulling the mustard out like a crazy woman.
Occasionally, we would catch a glimpse of a fisher. We investigated puddles teeming with tadpoles and frogs on South Lawn. I'm afraid he probably lapped some up. While I tried to figure out where Wood Ducks were nesting each spring, he rolled on his back, ate something nasty, or lunged at a cat. We walked by yards and gardens always seeing something: flowers, wildflowers, birds, butterflies, insects, and of course, squirrels and cats. We did this multiple times a day.
I go to the Adirondacks to hike and seek out nature. However, I have found that since I'm not there on a daily basis, I really don't know the exact location of a bird, or bear den, or wildflower patch, that a guide book or article talks about. Here in the village, day after day and year after year, a pattern emerges, a neighbor lets me know when and where they see the eagle or hear the owls. I get to see and know the big picture.
Thank you Athos for your unconditional love, gentle nature, and daily walks. I miss you immensely, buddy, but I thank you for the wonderful gift you gave me of seeing nature all around me. You trained me well!