Rain or shine and even during the brief times snow falls where we live, whether I am in the mood or not, my golden retriever Shelby and I make our daily trek through the forest which is literally just moments from our house. Shelby is now almost a one year old. I have been doing a variation of this walk for over 5 years now. Of course there are many other places that we take our dog but the forest walk happens every day unless we are away. It all started with our other golden, Cooper who passed away last year. Some of the time Linda joins us and I become 2rd in the pecking order.
Why both of our Golden’s names are the same as cars is purely accidental.
Shelby gets fed once a day in the morning and has a snack in the evening, usually some dog biscuits. As soon as he is fed we are out the door. When I put his leash on he almost always puts part of it in his mouth as if to say that he is capable of walking himself. He isn’t.
I decide which way I want to go. My choice is cutting into the woods right away and taking that path or walking down the road about 100 yards and cutting into the forest at another trail. At this time of year the foliage is quite dense. The trail is easily identifiable but one has to be careful not to trip on protruding roots.
|Into the woods.|
I’ve never seen a bear or a cougar in the woods but I have seen some other wildlife including deer and rabbits, red headed woodpeckers, and even a Bard owl a few times. Like a lot of other dogs, ours have had a penchant for eating rabbit poop. It isn’t encouraged and you would think the dog would be satisfied after eating his one big meal of the day. We jokingly call the search for rabbit poop “the Buffet”. Dogs aren’t always charming.
There are some similarities between our old dog and our new dog. Both are and were handsome gents. What some might call chick magnets. Little good this does me as I haven’t been in the market for years. Cooper used to race through the woods and sometimes clip our legs. Shelby seems to be more careful about that. He always has a strange desire to leap. He often leaps right over ditches and unfortunately fences. I will confess to having a man crush on both of the dogs I have owned.
There are some landmarks on our daily walk. The first trail entrance is not that noticeable and the foliage is quite thick. This is OK but on rainy days I can get a bit wet from the leaves rubbing up against me. The 2nd landmark is the big tree. The only notable thing about this is that it is bigger than the other trees. We next find ourselves in a straightaway which dips into a small creek. In the summer the creek dries up and I try to stop Shelby from going in there as he ends up with black paws.
|Speed it up back there! I have places to go.|
Next we cut off to another trail that runs alongside a gulley. A shed can be seen on the other side at the edge of someone’s property. There is also a tall BC fir tree by the gulley. I don’t know all the names of the trees but some are alder I think. Above the trail in most places there is a canopy. On sunny days you can see the dabbles of sunlight that penetrate to the forest below, kind of pretty really.
|Shed by gulley.|
We come out onto a road with some very nice houses and turn the corner and we pass an estate that has an orchard. I always leash Shelby up before we get to the estate as there are cars in the area. The estate is boundaried by a wire fence about 6 feet high. At this time of year the blackberries are just starting to ripen. Both Cooper and Shelby have had a taste for blackberries. Cooper became pretty good at helping himself.
|Water would be nice about now.|
|Path by blackberries.|
A year or two ago they built a paved trail that runs parallel to the forest on one side and a railway track on the other side. For a few years we used to see a passenger tourist train that ran up and down Vancouver Island once a day. It seems to have ceased operation. Unlike the forest trail where I very seldom see anyone else the paved trail sometimes has joggers, bicyclists, and older folks out for their “constitutional” stroll. I always have to have a good look off in the distance to see if anyone is coming as both Shelby and Cooper are and were type “A” dogs who like to greet people by jumping up on them. It isn’t an easy habit to break and I don’t want to be involved in a lawsuit because they have knocked over some old gomer. Bicyclists are harder to spot as they can kind of sneak up on you. As soon as I spot someone the leash goes on until they have passed us.
|You do remember me saying something about water don't you?|
|Grapevines in someone's back yard.|
|Dried up creek.|
|Wet and dirty.|
The paved path also has a bridge and a few creeks, two of which run under the path through culverts. In the summer wild daisies and other flowers grow alongside the trail. There are also several nice looking houses just off of the path. One house has a couple of really old dogs that have kind of hoarse barks. I haven’t seen them lately. Maybe because it is too hot or perhaps they finally bit the dust.
We are coming up to the final stretch. We cut off the paved path and head back into the woods. In another 10 minutes we are home. The whole hike usually takes about 45 minutes. In the winter some of the forest trail can get a little mushy but there are ways to avoid those areas.
As you have probably guessed, I just love the Golden Retriever breed of dog. Their exuberance is infectious. There disposition is as good as it gets. When Cooper died last summer I knew that I wanted another dog and only a Golden. I also understand that others have their own preferences in dogs. Every now and then we take Shelby out on a play date with a husky mix named Sable up to a great off-leash park near Parksville called Top Bridge that ends up at the Englishman River. Man can that husky motor.
|Linda, Shelby, and Sable at Top Bridge.|
|Sable and Shelby in Englishman River.|
|Dog day afternoon?|
This coming weekend my daughter Leah is coming over for a visit and on Monday we will be heading out to Long Beach and Pacific Rim National Park. It is here that Cooper would disappear off in the distance chasing seagulls that were high above him. We will toss Cooper’s ashes to the wind and bring something along to toast him with.
I didn’t grow up with a dog but I am certainly a dog person now!