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A Walk on the Wild Side

Every walk with William, my American Cocker Spaniel, was a walk on the wild side. My husband and I are sure that he was nearsighted since he had a perpetual Mr. Magoo look in his eyes that made even the simplest trip to attend the call of nature an adventure into “here be dragons” territory. During graduate school, we lived in a modest brownstone in New York with no outdoor access for William, so walkies were a big part of my husband’s and my daily routine. Summer and winter, we made the trek down three floors with William on his 25-foot non-retractable leash so that he could make the thrice-daily assessment of his kingdom, i.e. the urban neighborhood where we lurked when not cracking the books. Leash coiled firmly around my fist, we approached the enemy: parked cars, snow piles, “recyclables” (castoff free stuff), fire hydrants, and most dangerous of all—garbage cans! People and other dogs were of little interest to this quirky little dog, but inanimate objects

sent him straight into Don Quixote mode. His particular “windmill” was the ubiquitous city street decoration—the garbage can. Upon encountering his first of the day, William would stand stock still, head cocked to the side, feathery legs apart so as to have a stable base for the upcoming attack, and growl. This was followed by a rather hound like woo—woo—woo. Then, if allowed, the attack. Funny at first, we soon grew tired of extricating him from the neighbor’s sloppy attempts at filling and the garbage men’s hurried attempts at emptying the cans. We quickly learned the “best streets”, near the river with alley access for garbage pickup. Of course, that route had it’s own perils—William was just low enough to the ground to require a thrice daily cleanup session. Muddy in spring and fall, winter was the trickiest since snowy walks necessitated the warm foot-bath treatment. This quirky little dog actually enjoyed his warm foot-bath, and would have loved it more if it wasn’t for the ominous commode which, for a nearsighted little spaniel, must have looked a lot like the abominable snowman! William’s personal motto: Never Let Down Your Guard!

Since the arrival of warmer weather and the return of volunteers who spend winter elsewhere, my duties at the Center are changing. Still primarily a cat volunteer, I am now learning the routines of canine care. I am enjoying the opportunity to get to know our dogs even more personally, and am finding that walking them in the beautiful wooded areas that surround the Center is a true joy. Currently we have four dogs, one of whom I have not yet met!

Asia, Vinnie and Buddy Beagle love their daily walks! I am growing to love them too since the opportunity to walk dogs in the peace and safety of a dirt road and thickly wooded acreage is a rare treat for this former city dweller. Surrounded by birds, blooming Trillium, burgeoning undergrowth and greening trees, walks at the Center would be a treat for any dog or human companion! Last Thursday, we must have had some visitors from the local turkey flock, since Vinnie immediately found a fine pile of turkey “scat” to roll in. What fun he had until I unkindly reminded him that not everyone enjoys the smell of newly deposited turkey poop! Winding our way down the dirt road that leads out of the Center, we find so many things to smell and do. Vinnie likes to carry a branch in his mouth and really doesn’t mind if the branch is more like a tree limb. Asia wants to explore the woods and spends time focused on invisible sights and hidden smells—delights available only to a dog’s heightened senses. Buddy just relishes the idea of being out in the fresh air accompanied by someone whose entire focus is on him. Asia and Vinnie are terrific dogs and will make wonderful walking companions for anyone willing to give them the time and energy they deserve. Buddy could be easily walked by a canine newbie. If you have never had a dog of your own and would like to begin with a really “user friendly” version, Buddy is your man (oops, dog)! Come to the shelter and visit these fine citizens of the canine community. Maybe they will take you for walkies. Watch out for the garbage cans! CC

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