I am walking along a trail in Richmond this morning with two small dogs — one timid, one bold. The trail cuts a path between a railway line and blueberry farms. Wild blueberries and blackberries cushion the borders. Little thrushes and nuthatches chack at us and crisscross the trail in front as we walk. I know the coyotes are napping in the underbrush, waiting for the cool of late afternoon to see what they can scare up for a meal.
It is one of those stolen fall days, outrageously hot yet it started out two-quilt cold. The air has a slight mist that softens all the colours. The trees are tinging toward gold now. As I walk along the trail, silvery threads suspend from the trees, little worms rapelling to I don’t know where — closer to, if not on, the ground. A young mother speaking softly in Mandarin, holds a bucket in one hand while she picks blackberries with the other. Her toddler holds fast to her loose pants and eyes us with an amusing mix of suspicion and fascination.
A South Asian man, probably about 30 years old, intersects our path with a friendly Cane Corso while he chats softly on his cell phone. We nod at each other in friendly recognition. A half a kilometer ahead, we encounter an outgoing couple with one of those German Shepherds that’s “toned down”. His back doesn’t slope so he walks upright instead of slinking. He has a robust but muscular shape. He gambols around my bold one as they test each other’s mettle (my bold one doesn’t realize he weighs a mere 20 pounds). The timid one tucks his tail and turns his back to the puppy-like shepherd. I scoop him under me to make him feel safe. As the bold one and the shepherd cajole each other up the trail, they encounter a young, blonde shepherd cross who relishes the new gang he has found and bounces around the group.
As the group disperses, we circle back heading towards the car. The bold one decides he’ll catch up with us later, following his shepherd friend in a new direction. I whistle twice, and keep walking. As I start to worry, I hear his tags jingling and he rounds the bend in full run, bearing down on the timid one and I as we head to the car. The timid one pants outrageously, clearly new to this much aerobic activity in one go. They leap into the car, and we head home. To water.