Walking among ash-holes

Sniffing something that isn’t pee.

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.

Dead ash

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.

Smells good to a dog
Smells good to a dog

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.

Smells so good but what the heck is it?

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.

Ash hole.

27 thoughts on “Walking among ash-holes

  1. Bruce Goodman May 31, 2015 / 3:00 am

    Oh you put all this down to make me homesick for my life in North America. The woodpeckers, the wildlife… It captured things beautifully Susanne.

    … Did you know (because I didn’t until recently) that dogs can turn their smell off like we can shut out eyes?


    • redosue May 31, 2015 / 7:48 am

      I didn’t know that about dogs! What a handy thing to have when using an outhouse. Or living with 4 people. I wonder what caused that adaptation in pooches?

      Liked by 2 people

    • Silver in the Barn May 31, 2015 / 9:04 am

      I’ve never heard of such a thing. I’m with Susanne wondering what possible benefit it gives the canine and wishing I had the same ability!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bruce Goodman May 31, 2015 / 3:52 pm

        Human sense of smell is turned off when we sleep (which is why we need smoke alarms). I dog presumably turns its smell off because its ability to differentiate between different smells is several million times more efficient than ours. It’s possibly a restorative thing (like closing our eyes while we sleep…) Anyway – this is distracting from Susanne’s wonderful posting!


  2. Silver in the Barn May 31, 2015 / 9:07 am

    I could read you all day long. So much beautiful imagery in this post but not surprisingly, I am drawn to the Oscars red carpet tongue. Keep that little fragrant tuna-eating bundle away from Wile E., please!


    • redosue May 31, 2015 / 10:49 am

      He always stays on the leash, Barbara. We used to let him roam free until we sighted the coyote about 2 years ago. There’s quite an urban population of these creatures. I guess because we’ve chewed up so much of their habitat.


  3. Rosanna May 31, 2015 / 9:37 am

    I enjoyed walking in the woods with you and your dog. It felt like I was there myself. You do have a way with words….


    • redosue May 31, 2015 / 10:48 am

      We had a sudden change in temperature today and now it is chilly. It would be a different post as we walked briskly along the same path. I was wearing a jacket and shoes while yesterday I was in shorts, t-shirt, and sandals. Mr. Dog was spritely and his tongue hardly emerged from his mouth at all. I sure would love to take a walk with you one day, Rosanna. What a conversation we could have!


      • Rosanna June 1, 2015 / 12:13 am

        Wow, that was a quick change in temperature!

        Oh yes, Sue, what a conversation that would be, if we could really, instead of virtually take a walk together! But that virtual walk together last night (our time) gave me a big realization, as far as my writing path is concerned. I’m really grateful for that. I’ll settle for virtual walks for now…


      • redosue June 1, 2015 / 7:14 am

        What an intriguing comment, Rosanna. I’m dying of curiosity about the realization.


  4. Cynthia Jobin May 31, 2015 / 11:53 am

    This is a beautiful piece, Susanne, but then I would expect nothing less. Please do be careful about the coyote business…..

    In the early 2000’s I lived on a peninsula off of Boston harbor and at one point some coyotes swam over to our town—all beaches, very few trees—and began to terrorize the place. It was thickly populated and coyote prey were scarce. Before the authorities were able to bring the situation under control, the elementary school had to be closed and everyone lived in fear of losing their dogs and cats. Our dog was too large to be considered prey; still we kept her close. I will never forget the image of a woman who was walking her little dog, on a leash, on a residential street, when a coyote came right up and snatched the poor little pooch in its teeth, and ran off with it. The woman could not save it, but could only scream.


    • redosue May 31, 2015 / 1:23 pm

      What a frightening situation! I would hate to lose our walks along the wooded path but I’d hate to lose my dog more. I’ll need to consider an alternate route.


  5. Susanne McFadzen May 31, 2015 / 12:57 pm

    Thanks for the wonderful descriptions. Our Breeze didn’t like that heavy heat of the last couple of days either. Tongue out and panting up a storm. I guess she is allowed at almost 16 years old;)
    Cool on the east coast too this last day in May. Would be a more comfortable walk today, but Miss doggie is asleep. One should let sleeping dogs lie.


    • redosue May 31, 2015 / 1:25 pm

      How I’d love to be a sleeping dog. Breeze is definitely entitled, at 16, to her naps. Cool here, too, Susanne. Once again my ipomoea droopeth.


      • Susanne McFadzen May 31, 2015 / 1:36 pm

        did she like the hot weather better? or did you have to water her a lot ?


      • redosue May 31, 2015 / 4:52 pm

        Huh? The dog or the ipomoea? Mr. Dog needs frequent watering and the ipo has now been frosted twice. I don’t know if the poor thing will recover.


    • redosue June 7, 2015 / 9:45 am

      Thanks, Andrea. It is a favourite place to walk because it is cool in the shade. Damn the coyote for making us nervous but, hey, he was probably here first, right?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Ariel Bernstein June 1, 2015 / 2:08 pm

    Such a vivid post with beautiful descriptions and imagery. Thanks for sharing your outdoor walk.


    • redosue June 1, 2015 / 8:54 pm

      Thanks, Ariel. Hoping that coyote takes a hike out of our neighbourhood soon.


  7. Ellen Morris Prewitt June 2, 2015 / 11:04 pm

    What a great piece. You made me remember my vigilance when walking my Yorkies in Eagle Point. The eagles could cover so much distance so fast. And unafraid–they’d swoop so low as to leave shadows on the porch. Writing is such a wonderful thing, that your experiences can evoke my memories of North Alabama.


    • redosue June 7, 2015 / 9:47 am

      When I was a kid on Vancouver Island, cougars were a threat to small animals and children. Seems like nature gives us lots of reminders about it’s power. Yes, writing is a wonderful thing, Ellen and I’m ever-so-pleased when you read and comment and connect me to a place I’d love to see some day.


  8. Such a well written description, you are gifted with words. A joy to read! Have a great Monday Sue, looking forward to exploring a little more of your work. 🙂 -Giana.


    • redosue June 15, 2015 / 7:40 am

      Many thanks, Giana. Nature often brings out our best side, don’t you think?


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