I’m trying to include a two-mile hike/walk to the town hall and back each evening as cross training and, now, as Katy-the-Wonder-Dog is more inclined to wander in the warmer weather, a way to make sure she gets a good long walk in before dark. Taking the boys is always entertaining. Taking only the dog, yesterday, was enlightening.
Somedays the boys go with me, but yesterday it was just us gals.
We had to sneak out to keep the cats from following us (Princess Jane and Gentleman Jim-Bob have been joining us on the morning run). The first half mile of the walk is a steep incline from our door to our neighbor’s house. Katy loves this part of the walk. She wags her tail as we walk by houses filled with people who pet her and give her treats. We’ll stop so she can reclaim territory alongside the road, and there was a pause and a wag as we passed the neighbor’s house and she noticed the neighbor’s son, clearly in need of a canine playmate working in the yard.
To her credit, Katy had kept on track, the only serious pauses being the conducting of business. As we pass our neighbor’s house, however, we got to the quieter part of the road (a relative term in a town where the only traffic jam happens for 20 minutes after the July 4 parade when all the horse drawn wagons are driven home). There would be only one house to pass before we got to the town hall still over a half-mile away down the hill.
I will admit that my imagination starts to run faster than my feet on this section of road. We have seen a mountain lion cross this part of the road, and, even though I’m guessing he/she doesn’t just park himself up the hill waiting for stray joggers, I always wish I’d brought lion spray. Or bear spray. Or coyote repellant. Have I missed any possible predators?
With my vicious attack dog, infamous for drowning visitors in kisses and annoying passing deer with her attempts to play with them, I knew I’d be safe. Strength in numbers, right?
As it turns out, Katy is scared of more than just gunshots and thunderstorms. We passed a chained driveway to a camp higher up the mountain, and she slowed down, sniffing the air, looking down the mountain to our left and, then, up the mountain.
“Come on, honey,” I coaxed. She looked at me and then the mountain and then tried to do her happy trot. We passed an exposed ribcage, and I wondered if the smell had spooked the dog, but remembering that she had no qualms about eating decaying deer meat — a kill apparently deemed too small to tag by some anonymous hunter that had been left in our woods.
I kept walking wondering if she could smell big mountain cat pee on the road or something. Were the bears waking up? Maybe she could hear them rumble.
We did the sniff, slow, and stop routine a few more times, and I thought how ironic that I, the queen of worry and wonder (as in, I wonder if that guy in the unfamiliar truck could be a serial killer?) was suddenly in the position of trying to help another being find her moxie.
We got to the town hall, I slapped the mail box to mark the half-way point and started up the hill back to our house, me coaxing and ignoring my own ridiculous fears. We passed the petrifying rib cage again. Katy stopped to mark it this time, and I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing I wouldn’t have to fake courage for someone else after a few more minutes.
The pathetic thing is that this road isn’t the only place my fears speed up my footsteps or, worse, stop me in my tracks to consider an ancient carnage. That tendency to stop becomes a habit in other areas of life, sometimes making daily struggles seem bigger than they are. Usually I muscle my way through them for the sake of the kids, but I always wish I didn’t feel the fear at all.
As we got to the top of the hill near the neighbor’s house and the easy part lay ahead, I decided I was really grateful to Katy. When I go walking with the boys, we’re so loud that any animal will steer clear of the road just to save their eardrums. With my fellow worrier, however, I had more than company. I had some time to consider my more ridiculous fears and, even if I was faking it the whole way just for her sake, to pretend that I was bigger than they were.
Someday that may become a habit.