It’s a daily routine: around 4:00 in the afternoon, Ellie (our resident Border Collie/Aussie rescue) knows it’s “Walkies!” time and she stares persistently at me until I put on my sneakers, grab my hat and head out the door with her. Anyone who has ever experienced the Border Collie Stare knows just what it’s like! I must admit, it’s a welcome break in the day for me, too. There is always so much to be done here, and I also volunteer for an international non-profit (The Gurney Institute of Animal Communication), so my head is usually loaded up with to-do’s and spinning from keeping ten balls in the air at once. But…once we are out on the trail, I’ve learned to take a deep breath, relax, and really focus on Ellie.
Seeing the world through my dog’s eyes is, well, eye-opening. She takes such delight in uncovering small surprises and nature’s treasures, and if I pay attention, she shows me her world. Sometimes it might be a slow-moving box turtle half-hidden in the grasses that I never would notice if she didn’t point it out. Another time she stopped dead, staring intently up into a tree. I looked up to find three young squirrels scampering around their nest, playing hide and seek. We probably spent fifteen minutes watching their antics.
Often she’ll see a rabbit…and goes into the “Ellie stalk”: she stops, intently pointing the bunny, then very slowly moves one leg, then another, as she creeps closer. If the bunny looks the other way, she speeds up, then slows again when the bunny looks back. Sometimes I just sit down and let her take as long as she wants with her stalk until the bunny scoots away. It doesn’t matter that she never actually makes “contact”; she’s just thrilled to do her stalk…and her joy is simply contagious. One day we were headed around the loop in the pasture across our stream. Mark mows a path there between the hay field and the bushes along the fence — it’s one of my favorite places to walk. Suddenly, we rounded a bend to find three baby woodchucks who had ventured out on the the path. Two of them immediately disappeared into the bushes; but one just froze in terror, all huge eyes and quivering fur. “No, Ellie, leave him alone!” I said as she started to pounce. Ellie stopped, looked at me, and I said, “Ellie, he’s so young, he is so afraid; please leave him alone.” She turned back to him, reached out, lightly touched him with her nose, then continued on down the path. I marveled at her understanding and gentleness.
We have many people who travel with their dogs here to Fox Hill. I always encourage them to explore our property, and I watch as their dogs bound off with glee, delighting in all the new odors and experiences. City dogs especially seem to revel in the freedom. But dogs seem to enjoy their “walkies” regardless of the place, and we can learn so much from them about the simple pleasures of life and “being in the moment”…if we just pay attention.
Some pictures courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net: Bunny: Dr Joseph Walks, Squirrel: sbenjasuwan