Monday, January 22, 2007

Saturday in the Park

Like any dog, our pup, Walker Evans, needs to be able to get out and sniff, explore and sometimes even run around, and he needs more room and newness than our backyard and the neighboring streets he gets walked on can provide.
We used to address this with his weekly visits to Dog Days of Buffalo on Amherst Street across from Wegmans, but since the fire that occurred there during the October storm, we have not been able to do so, although I have lengthened his walking distance.
One way I can give Walker Evans the exercise and sometimes socialization he needs is to take him to Squaw Island off Niagara Street; he loves to go several miles down the bike path along the river as well as explore the shoreline, and even romp up and down the hill when possible. With the wet weather we've recently had, I haven't been able to take him there as often as I would like, because my car doesn't need several square yards of mud in it.
But with Walker Evans acting a bit squirrelly (he would hate that description almost as much as he hates squirrels) lately, and with the cold weather hardening most of the ground, I decided that Saturday was the time to go. Val was still sleeping after working her overnight shift and we were DVRing the Wisconsin-Illinois mens basketball game (which Wisconsin won, naturally). Of course, when I checked the Weather Channel just before we left, the temperature was 19 degrees and the wind chill was 5 degrees; knowing that the wind at the lake at Squaw Island would be at least double the official 12 miles per hour report, I put long johns on under my jeans and broke out for its debut my blue and gold classic Buffalo Sabres toque, a very cool Christmas gift from Val.
Walker Evans knows that there are basically two reasons for me to take him to my car on the weekend, either to go to the veterinarian or to go to the park, Squaw Island or Delaware Park. When he sensed me turn left off Richmond Avenue onto Forest Avenue, he figured out where we were heading and stood with his paws between the seats and his head next to mine and gave me an appreciative lick to the ear.
Showing his usual excitement, Walker Evans ran to everything he could find to sniff and, um, post a response to, before heading down the bike path along the river. He slipped a few times on some ice, but was undeterred, and if I didn't decide to turn around before the wind knocked me over, I believe we would have walked to the Peace Bridge. For most of our time there, the park was almost deserted, with only three other vehicles there, including two U.S. Border Patrol vehicles near the bridge and rail line. Just before we ended our walk, Walker Evans slipped on some ice and apparently sprained his right front paw. He limped for a while Saturday, badly at times, but he is walking much better now.
As we neared my car, we finally encountered some other people and dogs. One man was walking his beagle blend, and Walker Evans met a new pup, another German shepherd blend, who was 5 1/2 months old and still at the stage where his paws are too large for the rest of his body.
On the way home, Walker Evans laid down on the seat, as Val puts it, like a drunken sailor (before anyone complains, Val's late father, Edward, was a U.S. Navy veteran and sailor), and seemed content. Except for my facial cheeks, I was rather warm and comfortable, and appreciated the workout.


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