The Eastern Freeway is nearby where I’m living at present. It’s bound by surprisingly effective noise reduction barriers. This side of the barrier is parkland. A small creek runs through it. There’s a pond where native birds paddle around. There’s grassland framed on either side thick bush. A path wends its way through it, which cyclists take, and locals out for their morning walk, and people ike me walking the dog.
Since I’ve finished working at the shop I’ve found myself down there pretty much every day giving Rigby the walk. Like most dogs he loves his daily walk. Despite his frequent antics Rigby is actually an intelligent, perceptive animal. He’ll get wind of a pending walk even before I do. He’ll stand there stiff-legged looking up at me intently. His ears will be cocked, and his brown eyes will examine me for signs that yes, time for walkies. He’s full of alert anticipation. Then I’ll give a sign. I’ll nod my head perhaps, or tell him yep, let’s go for a walk. Sometimes I’ll just pick up my earphones, which he knows as another sign. Regardless once he twigs he’ll caper and prance. He’ll leap at me keen to get going. He’ll follow at my heels as I go to fetch the leash. Then he’ll hurry before me as we get set to leave, leaping at the closed front door with impatience to be out. He is full of the uniquely doggish pleasure. Down the street we’ll go, straining at the leash pulling at me, excited to be out getting there, wherever ‘there’ is. Often he’ll pause to sniff at something, or examine something interesting, or to have a short squirt of a pee to prove, like Foo, that he was here. Occasionally he’ll look back over his shoulder at me, and if I stop he’ll turn to embrace me.
Most days we walk somewhere between 40-60 minutes. It’s good exercise for both of us. I haven’t taken the same route twice yet. I set out generally in the one direction and diverge from that at a whim. I like to explore, going further in one direction one day, and then in the opposite the next. I’ll return via the network of back streets, mapping it in my head as I go along. Sometimes as we go along I’ll mind myself nodding at fellow-pedestrians. We’ll regularly come across other dogs with their masters, something that rouses Rigby to different degrees of excitement.
Generally by the middle stages of the walk Rigby’s not straining at his leash so hard. He pads along, looking to either side. I’ll be listening to my iPhone, to music sometime, but more often lately to an audiobook. Last week I finished listening to The Prefect, one of Iain Banks best sci-fi novels. This week I’m listening to a book that was a favourite when I was teenager – Quiller in The Warsaw Document, by Adam Hall.
Sometimes we’ll pause to look at something, or to sit for a minute or two at a park bench while Rigby waits patiently. It’s pretty in the bush, and fine to stop and reflect on the nature about us, and the surprisingly diverse range of wildlife. It’s good to get away full stop.
Today we took a different route again. We went the other day and ended up at the shops, where I had a coffee, bought a birthday card for my sister, and the fixings for lunch. As Rigby loves being around people this delighted Rigby. I tied him up and he turned in whatever direction the traffic came in, wagging his tail and offering himself up for affection. He got surprisingly excited by a docile golden retriever. They’re dog relatives, but you wouldn’t know it by their contrasting demeanour.
We returned, walking down by the creek again and up through the increasingly familiar streets. By the end of it I slip Rigby off the leash and he ambles up to the gate waiting for it to be opened for him. His mouth is agape in a happy pant. Inside he slurps up water from his bowl. Now, as I write this, he sits at my feet, as usual.