What I truly regret is that I lived here almost 25 years before I explored it.
In the fall of 2013, the Matthews Family Band was shaken to our core. Petey was desperately ill. From mid-October to the end of March 2014, he was in the hospital much more than he was home.
Every day I got up and headed to the hospital, staying until evening. At the beginning of Petey’s illness, The Kid was all the way across the country in San Francisco, doing an internship. So, I left an empty house each morning and returned to an empty house each night.
But not totally empty.Our dog, Riker, was my only, my constant companion. Before I left the house, I took him out. After patiently waiting for me all day, we’d go for a walk as soon as I came in at night.
After being cooped up, Riker was sorely in need of exercise, and a change of scenery. After being cooped up, I also needed exercise, and to turn off my brain which teamed with lab tests, prognoses, and bills.Drinking was an option, but I save my calories for desserts and macaroni & cheese. Riker might have turned to drink, but 200-pound dogs can be really ugly drunks.
One night, about a week after Petey’s initial hospitalization, our pup and I took a new route on our walk.Our street is a dead-end, and beyond is forest. Instead of walking our usual route which was to the end of the road and back, when we got to our turnaround, for the first time ever, we kept going.
It was beautiful, calm and quiet in those woods. There were houses all around, but because of the trees, they were silent and invisible. There were various paths that led through trees and along a creek.
As soon as we stepped into the woods, all my worries and fears vanished for the duration. Petey was still sick, and the related stresses and complications still existed, but a forty-minute walk acted upon me like eight hours of restful sleep. It rejuvenated both Riker and me.
We kept walking.
When Petey was home I continued to walk in “my woods”. It was a respite.
Last fall, we lost Riker. I continued to go into the forest, for both exercise, and to mourn my sweet pup.One day I was walking an unfamiliar path and saw a large German Shepherd coming toward me.
I had two choices: I could try to get away, but there was no way I’d outrun him. Or, I could stay where I was and hope the dog wasn’t aggressive. So, I stood still.
It was the right decision. The dog was friendly and sweet. We spent about four hours together tromping through the woods that day, with him by my side. Never having been formally introduced, I called him ‘Mister’. I later learned his name is ‘Polo’ (I like Mister better).
I’m so grateful to Mister. The forest had become a very sad place, which frequently saw me in tears. I both smiled and laughed during my adventures with that sweet doggo; the first since losing Riker.
Now I take our puppy Crowley, into the woods. I still love and look forward to every step. And seeing it through the eyes of my dog has made it new all over again. But, I don’t think I’ll ever celebrate my euphoria quite in the way he does.
No matter how happy the woods make me I just can’t see flinging myself down onto the forest floor and rolling around in deer poop.
Thanks for your time.