I had to go for a hike today. It was a moral imperative. This overwhelming sense of cabin fever set in and I had to dig the hiking boots out of the closet and go. Which was a bit inconvenient given the rain, especially since it wasn’t raining yesterday when I was doing crappy yard work instead. But it didn’t deter me, so off I went.
I took my dog Daisy, a 13 year-old, one-eyed, Boston Terrier/Lab mix (yes, I know it’s a weird mix), and Gus, our 9 year-old Red Heeler working dog, and set out into the woods. Daisy was a rescue from when I lived in the city during college. In other words, she can’t be trusted off-leash in the woods. Around the house, she’s pretty good about staying where she should and coming when she’s called, but the moment she hits the woods (or the really tall grass back behind the house), she goes selectively deaf. Gus would probably follow me to Antarctica and back without ever needing me to tell him to heel, but that’s what good working dogs do.
Anyways, Daisy is also a leash puller. No matter how long I work with her, in the 9 years I’ve had her, I’ve not been able to break her of the habit. I’ve even bought expensive head collars to try to solve the problem, but she always fights them and we end up standing on a street corner while she panics trying to free herself. It’s been a long and embarrassing struggle.
Today, I just wasn’t up to fighting her the whole way or listening to her choke herself every 4.2 seconds. After about 100 feet, I was ready to give up and just leave her at the car (I’d driven into the woods rather than walk a mile in the open during a rain storm just to start my actual hike), but I decided to try making a head collar out of her leash, like we do for the horses. I looped the leash over her snout and fed it back through her collar and… the problem was instantly fixed. Like, instantly. She didn’t fight it, she stopped pulling, and we got to simply enjoy being on the trails together. It was amazing. And free- go figure.
We hiked up into the mountains behind my house, never leaving the farm. That has to be the best part of living where I do, right next to the Smokey Mountain National Park. Our land meets the park land 2/3s of the way up a mountain, so I can get the park feel without ever leaving family land. The rain was coming down lightly through the trees but the sun was out and it was in the 60s. We hiked in for about an hour, crossing the first 2 streams without any real difficulties. By the time we hit the third stream, though, it was clear this was the spot to turn around. The stream was overflowing the banks and there was a huge muddy swamp on the path. And I was already exhausted- having spent most of the past several months only walking out to feed the chickens, my body was protesting. So we turned back.
The trip back to the car was wonderful. There was just a light sprinkling of rain coming down and the air smelled like damp, clean earth and pine. It was one of those moments where you feel like all the heaviness of winter is just being rinsed away. It finally felt like Spring might actually be a reality, not just a distant figment of my imagination. And moving my body through the woods just because I felt like it, instead of because I had to get a chore done, that was another wonderful feeling. I can’t wait for more days like today.