07 July 2016

Summer has arrived in the woods around our home. And I don’t mean that the leaves are back on the trees, the skunks and porcupines have come out of hibernation, or the migrating birds have returned. I don’t even mean the bugs and the humidity and the heat.

I have spent more time on the miles of nearby woodland paths in the past seven months than I did over the last eighteen years combined. When the kids were little (and yes, we had other dogs but rarely took them in the woods… ticks, you know) exploring the mile walk to the ponds or riding our bikes on the forest trails was a special occasion. I mean, only during fair weather seasons, we might have done it a couple of times each month. But I think it’s safe to say I never ventured into the woods during the wintertime until this year.

Dinah changed everything and we walk in those woods at least three or four times each week. Sometimes every day. And while the woods LOOK and FEEL far different in the summer than they did all winter, the biggest difference to me is the people.

Usually I could let Dinah off leash and walk her three or four miles without seeing anyone. Once in a great while we’d meet another adventuresome dog walker, but the earlier we went out, the smaller chance of it. We had the woods to ourselves which meant I could leave her off leash for all but the roads. It was quiet, peaceful, serene. It was good.

But now? The kids are out of school and of course everyone likes the mild weather. Early mornings often mean at least a handful of others out on the trails with their dogs, plus the joggers, bikers, and rare early ATV riders (usually an older couple traveling slowly). But after 10 a.m. the kids are out in force, swimming in the pond, racing their ATVs and dirt bikes, playing hide and seek, and I’ve even seen ambitious high-schoolers running in anticipation of the upcoming cross-country season.

In some ways the bustle of summer in the woods is refreshing. It’s great to see people out, away from their televisions and computers, especially the kids. I’m glad to know kids still like to play in the woods, even on cloudy days. But I’m also selfish. I have to keep Dinah on leash the better part of the time or she’ll chase anything on wheels. She’ll also chase anything that runs. Or walks. Or stands still. She wants to befriend everyone, but not everyone understands that her barks and lunges don’t mean that she wants to eat them. Imagine that?

Copyright © 2016 - Paulla Estes