I woke up early as I tend to do these days. An inch or so of wet snow covered the ground. We were restless, Olive the blind dog and I–though she more than I. I am inclined to skip walks on days like this, but there is only so much energy her seven-month-old body can contain. She was starting to turn on the old mutt Butch after so many days of little more than brief walks to do her business.
Butch, for his part, was having none of it. At 14, he was used to quiet afternoons of long naps and making his twice-daily leisurely walks around LaVern M. Johnson Park. Then Olive arrived–boundless tail wagging Olive with all the shenanigans puppies bring. I realized the only way to give old Butch a break was to take Olive on long walks.
There are no shortage of places to take long walks with Olive in Lyons, and no shortage of new experiences and fresh sights to see, even just taking the well-worn route to the dog park. That was the decision I made on this particular morning: Head up Highway 36 to the path that follows the river, cross the bridge, and walk over to the fenced area meant for letting her kind run unencumbered.
The snow muted everything, and the river offered its trickling soundtrack to accompany the soft swish of our footsteps in the snow. There was little to think about on the walk but teaching Olive some leash manners. She didn’t come with those. I wouldn’t have expected she would, but I’ll admit it has been a lesson in patience and how to deal with the pain of a few nipped fingers. She tugged a bit. I stopped, gently giving her the command to heel and rewarding her when she did before she was off and tugging again. We worked that routine back and forth, back and forth until we reached the gate to the dog park.
The hills south of town were snow-covered and the sky an even shade of slate. Olive had only been at the park a handful of times prior, and each time there were few if any dogs. This time, there were at least six or seven and it was clear she was ready to play. For all her usual puppy misbehavior, she played well and she listened when I called her name. Even off leash with a large group of dogs, she rarely wandered far from me for very long. My dad says it’s the Lab in her. She looks to be all black Lab, but we don’t know for sure. He’s right, though, she does remind me in every way of the old chocolate Lab my parents had, especially in the way that she is already showing me trust and loyalty in the few short weeks since she has come to live with us.
After a couple of passes around the park with lots of puppy play, we made our way back home. My walking shoes were snow-covered and wet by that point. We followed the path back through Bohn Park. Right where the parking lot ended and the park began, we found a buck standing alone in the middle of a snow-covered grassy area. I stopped and wondered if Olive would notice, but I knew she couldn’t see that far. She can’t see much beyond her own nose. The deer and I stood for a frozen moment as Olive sniffed the grass completely unaware. Our encounter was interrupted by another dog and her mama. The deer dashed off in its quiet gravity-defying way. Olive and I wandered back across the bridge, taking the walk slow, stopping to watch the river. The other dog and dog mama met us on the bridge, and Olive got one last chance to greet another friend. Even after all the walking, it seemed as if she could keep going for another hour or two. I, however, was ready to get out of my shoes and socks that were soaked completely through.