Morning song

Summer camp schedules and the unusual heat lately have made me rethink my regular noon-time dog walk.

We’re going mornings these days. Early. Before anyone else in the house is awake. When the air is still cool and there’s some dew left in the hay fields, and a bit of mist hangs over everything.

I’ve never been a morning person by nature. I’ve been forced to it by circumstances and now, as I grow older, I find it impossible to sleep in late even when given the chance. When the summer sun comes streaming in our uncovered, eastern-exposure windows, I’m up (and the cats demanding their breakfast is more effective than an alarm clock).

The dog’s learning this new routine. He was a sleeper-inner, too, until lately. Now, when he hears me remove the leash from the hook, he comes out from under the covers on H’s bed and trots down the stairs to wait by the front door.

The other day when we went out, the air was so cool I could see my breath. But the sun was just gearing up for the day and I was sweating and the dog was panting by the time we made it back up the darn final hill to the house.

Mostly, at that time of day, we’re walking alone. Sometimes we see a lone jogger. We see a lot of birds.

Sometimes, we meet other early morning walkers. Shy, nibbling leaves and grasses in the trees along the river.

Early light

Morning river

Hay

Morning field

Haze

Moose

Cross that bridge and then… Bark!

Most every day, the dog and I take a stroll.

P1040360

Our usual path is to take the trail from the driveway down into the river valley. From there, we have several choices, but the most interesting choices require that we cross the iron bridge.

Iron bridge over west branch

The bridge is no obstacle to me, but the dog fears it because the deck is an open grating that’s unfriendly to paws.

Bridge deck

Not only is it painful to walk across when you don’t have shoes, you can see the water rushing under it, which makes the crossing a dizzying prospect. And if you’re walking on paws that are not much larger than the holes, you might be worrying that a leg will fall through.

Our last dog, Phoebe, also feared the bridge. When she was a pup, we carried her across until she got sick of that and learned to cross on her own, head down, toes splayed.

Gryfe has the benefit of a set of wooden boards someone put down on the deck a few years ago, so he never learned to walk across the grating itself.

Even so, he’s terrified of the bridge. He always reaches it before I do, then he waits in front of it, unwilling to actually step onto it unless he’s absolutely sure it’s required. When I get there, he slinks along the boards, very slowly at first, then he breaks into a run when he reaches the second third, so he can quickly put that bridge behind him. On the other side, there’s the trail to the beach, and there’s the huge field where he can race in circle and chase red-winged black birds, and then there’s the really good trail, the one that goes up into the hills on the other side of the valley.

Once across, he used to race off to explore the treasures of the far side of the bridge. Recently, though, he’s developed a new habit: he’ll stand on the far side of the bridge, waiting for me, the slow poke, to get across, and then he’ll start barking, joyously. “Hey! I did it! Did you see what I did?! I crossed that nasty bridge! Did you see?! Did you see?!”

Yes, I saw. And you get to do it again on the way back from our walk, silly boy.

I could take a lesson from Gryfe: approach my fears cautiously but head-on, remembering that there’s really cool stuff on the other side, get the hard part over with quickly, and then bark my head off in celebration when I make it, even if it means I have to do it all over again the very next day.