Growing up, in Ontario, my father was the dog walker in the family. It was his dog and his morning ritual. The dog came with me only when I was heading out for a walk with a boy; she even once chaperoned a date to the drive-in movies...where she proceeded to let out a fart every ten minutes.
When I got my own dog at the age of 26, I began my own walking rituals. We lived in Vancouver then, in an apartment, so we walked three times a day, long walks that took us through different neighbourhoods or to the beach or up into the mountains. Later, having moved back east, we still walked two and three times a day, down the road and along the beach when we were in Pugwash, around town or out in the woods if we were in Ontario. A new dog by then, with too much energy and no back yard. I’ve walked around the world a couple of times with her.
In any kind of weather. Days of heavy rain in Vancouver or stinging snow whipping off Lake Ontario. The dregs of hurricanes or October snow in northern Nova Scotia.
Now we live in the country so our walks are limited to daytime, to the road -- no woods walking during hunting season or after seeing coyote or bear tracks on the old dirt road behind the house; without streetlights to keep us safe, I have traded the solitude of walking in the dark for the peace of the river valley.
On a particular morning...Fog lifts gently off the river and undulates over the field, cloaking the cows and their one horse companion in scarves of mist. Above the silhouette of trees, an orange glow promises the bursting arrival of the sun.
Over the abandoned house on the other side of the gully, purple fog drifts in the sky. Purple fog! Of course. The rising sun diffusing through the cool moisture creates unexpected palettes in the sky. Burning orange at its centre with a pink puff then purple at the edges.
The dog meanders through the ditch, seeking bodies to match the smells: mice, skunk, raccoons, fox, deer. Thankfully, they are long gone, safe and sound, into the woods or down by the river.
Every walk ends with coffee or tea; the anticipation of it keeps my feet moving briskly towards home. In the mornings, it is always coffee. The dog finds her bed in the sun and flops into it, knowing her breakfast comes later. Wisps of steam drift from the roof as the sun flings itself over the tops of the pine trees. While the coffee perks, I hang a load of wash on the clothesline, dark work clothes punctuated by a sunlit splash of red handkerchief.
That’s new, the laundry part of the ritual. I like it, like that it reminds me of why, when living in Vancouver, I always dreamed of living in the country.