Sep 27, 2017
by Thomas Martin
Last January we received an unexpected visit from two people who brought a small short-haired dog to our doorstep. My spouse’s daughter and friend offered us this friendly little fellow. Having lost my old feline companion “Buddy” a few months earlier I was receptive as was Joan when he was offered to us.
Our new found friend’s history may not be different than many others. An owner moved away to be married to a spouse not wanting a dog. (Hmm?) The dog was given to a relative who passed him to a neighbor who, in turn, told of the animal’s plight to a friend who brought him to us. From an embedded chip we learned his name and age, a mere one year, one month. He was renamed, “Buck,” because his buff short haired coat resembled a deer’s coloring. However, Buck soon gave way to “Buckey.”
Now we were dog owners! That means not only feeding, medication checks, microchip registration, new leashes, finding appropriate bedding, obtaining the “right foods,” finding toys and bones, but, above all – walking the dog!
This may sound easy, but it really isn’t. Where can the beast run free? Well, one might say at the dog parks. However, there is a great deal of variance among dog parks. Some are rather small. Some have dogs that are not sociable. They chase smaller dogs and are quite rough. Other parks are littered or the grasses are worn. Inclement weather renders them muddy. Some are seldom cleaned of feces.
Walkin’ the neighborhood has a routine. This format usually is at the beginning or end of the day when an owner has limited time. There is a pattern of routes known to owner and animal. It is nearly predictable on which bush, hydrant, or fence the dog will leave his/her mark. The dog knows exactly when a counterpart behind a fence or at a window will produce a bark and/or growl.
Both owner and dog are familiar with those they meet en route. Friendships grow. Animosities exist. On our walk there are the two small dogs that bark, growl, and extend their leashes to the max in a show of bravado. There is the guttural loud warning from behind the same fence each walk. Depending on time of day, and day of the week, there are friendly barking announcements that a family is eating outdoors and you are receiving a social recognition of their presence.
Walkin’ the bikepaths… Two common dog runs are the community bikepath from Highway 12 through the center of Sonoma and Fryer’s Creek. Leashes are required and this rule is likely followed most of the time. Side trips to the Vallejo Home area and vineyards on the east side add interest.
Walkin’ in and out of bounds…Leashes are required in state and county parks. The Overlook and Montini trails are out of bounds! Why in each of these cases? These are natural areas to allow dogs to experience the open road. Yet, they are closed. Running free is tempting, but problematic. The fine is prohibitive. In the alternative find a field or friend’s vineyard and let them run.
For great fun, travel west 45 minutes to Dillon Beach where dogs and owners have miles of open beach. It is hound heaven, an unimaginable dog amusement area.
Walkin’ country roads…There are many country roads in Sonoma Valley where dog walkers may be found at locations with a lower level of traffic and activity. These provide dogs and walkers familiarity with the local environment. There are surprises too. A walker and dog often stopped to engage a burro and goat in a pasture. Recently a passer-by was feeding carrots and watermelon rind to the animals as we watched.
When walkin’ country roads one becomes aware of debris along the side of the road. This writer and dog recently picked up a bag of cans, plastic, cartons, and other refuse. They left the bag by a neighbor’s mailbox for disposal. Sad to say, within 7–10 days time the same roadside was strewn with fresh trash.
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