By the time we got to the shaded path, the dog was panting heavily, his tongue hanging half-way to the ground. I wondered where he puts that long, pink strip when he’s not hot. Does it roll up like a red carpet after the Oscars, until the next hot spell?
Today, when the moisture in the air makes my hair kink like arthritic fingers, we walk slowly. He gets to stop and sniff every pee droplet left by the dogs in the ‘hood without me hurrying him along so I can meet my step quota for the day. There were many stops. His nostrils flexed and twitched their way forward, breathing heavily.
We walked along “coyote alley”. A resident predator rules the brush on the opposite side of the creek. Last winter she watched us and we watched her a half dozen times. Back then, I looked for tracks in the snow on our side of the path but it is a well worn dog-walking corridor and I didn’t see any. Thank goodness. But I saw trampled snow cutting across the frozen creek. I haven’t seen any beavers at work this spring even though there is ample material for dam-building.
The trees in our part of the world have been attacked by a pretty beetle, called the Emerald Ash Borer. All through the woods, you can see the skeletons of the ash trees, hear the woodpeckers and flickers cracking their bare bones, maybe finding the last of the murdering beetles’ larvae and eating them. Although too late to save the tree, it makes me happy to think there’s natural revenge at work.
It doesn’t take much to fell the dead trees. A strong wind, a heavy load of snow or a fat squirrel with his nut-stuffed cheeks can easily topple a dead ash. Their bodies now criss-cross the creek at frequent intervals and I can’t help worry that a hungry coyote, having finished off the beavers, will pick his way over the brackish water, looking for dinner. A small wooly dog exhaling tuna breathe and no bigger than a beaver could be a fragrant temptation. We proceed with caution.
The brush that was bare in the winter is now a tightly woven wall of branches, leaves, vines, ferns, grasses, and wildflowers. Today, the wind was up and forced branches against branches. They creaked and snapped. Chickadees, goldfinches, and cedar waxwings warbled and squawked. The leaves shushed us. The dog’s snout down, he foraged under the foliage, nosed it aside, found some scat. He dropped a shoulder as if to roll until I noticed what he was about to do in the doo.
The damp air carried scent like a lake carries cabin conversations. I felt like a bee seeing pollen in puddles. Confused, I didn’t know where to put my nose to collect the teasing scents. That one over there! Or this one – here – hanging from this tree. What are these flowers? They smell like Bora Bora or Vanuatu or Corfu, but definitely not here.
It’s a rich season. Noses full, hot and sated, we dawdled home. Now both of us stopped to sniff, breathless from deep breathing, our unseen neighbour forgotten – for now.