Saturday, 9 April 2011

A few minutes walk from my house, just south of the intersection of Kingston Road and Bellamy Road is a trail that leads down through the ravine to shore of the lake. I had often taken the dogs for a walk there on the weekends. A little over three years ago, I decided to make it a daily walk.
The total distance is about 5 kilometres and takes about an hour and yet it has proven time and again to be more of a trip to another country and a place out of time.
Less than 100 yards from a six lane highway and residential development, the ravine is full of wildlife. I often see rabbits, foxes, coyotes, deer, mink and even a beaver. When I don’t see them their tracks are there. And birds, all sorts, an eagle once, a gyr falcon,  lots of hawks, a great horned owl breakfasting on a rabbit that it had snagged, blue herons, swans, kingfishers. I once kept an informal daily tally for a couple of weeks of the varieties that I saw. It was never less than twelve.

Just as wonderful as the wildlife, is the plant world. In the spring the ravine can be full with the perfume of black locust one week, wild roses the next. In the fall the hills of the ravine light up with golden yellow poplars and electric red sumac.

Steps into the ravine, the hum of the traffic and the noise of the world recede, absorbed by the forest. Part way down, the path follows a stream that runs at the centre of the ravine. Now the gentle ripple of water over rocks becomes the main sound in the world.

Half way down, I round a corner and the lake comes into view, framed in the V of the ravine, never the same colour from one day to the next.
This is a morning walk, and most often I arrive at the lakeshore to see the sun rise. I cannot count the times that I have begrudgingly got out of bed, organized the dogs and set out only to be overwhelmed by the peace and beauty that dwells in this ravine walk and the simple rising of the sun over the water. It is indeed a blessing for the rest of the day.

Jack and Trixie

In my experience, you are either a dog person or you’re not. There seems to be no middle ground. If you have clicked here and you’re not a dog person, you have probably moved on. If you are a dog person, I will continue with my story.

Jack and Trixie are Border Collies, they are my constant companions.
After years of not having a dog, I was surprised and delighted when my wife Colleen agreed that it would be a great idea. And so I we got Jack, nine years ago. At 8 weeks old he was in the truck with me everyday.
Border Collies are famous, among other things, for being ‘one man’ dogs. Jack is true to the breed. Colleen often longed for a dog of her own Four years later we got Trixie.
She was supposed to stay home with Colleen, who was off work on a sabbatical, but she quickly learned there was more exciting stuff when she went in the truck.

“How do you tell them apart?” is one of the most frequently asked questions. To me it’s so obvious: their size, their shape, their ears, the way they walk. The easiest way, however, for newcomers: Jack has a broad white stripe between his eyes and up onto his forehead, Trixie has only the tiniest stripe between her eyes. They look so much alike but their personalities are like night and day.

“How do you cope with two of them, aren’t Border Collies hyper active?” is the most asked question. The simple answer is no. They both love to be on the go, not necessarily running, but ‘at work’.On the whole they are quiet and calm travelling in the truck and around the house. When we asked the breeder that very same question she replied that exercise was not the main concern. “ Border Collies bond very strongly to their owners”, she said, “I don’t care how big your backyard is, if you can’t be with this dog all the time, don’t bother.”

As I write this Jack is curled up at the base of my chair, Trixie is upstairs snoozing on the back of the couch.