Last year, just about this time, I surprised Clark with a puppy. It was a spur of the moment decision on my part to go out and get him (against the wishes of my dear, sweet hubs.) I saw no reason not to adopt a four-legged, fury friend into the family. My hubs could think of many reasons to just keep things they way they were. In the end, I decided to just go against his reasoning and take the plunge. So, I went out and adopted Duncan, our adorable 12 month old Puggle. And for that reason, I take full responsibility of my faithful companion.
Now nothing makes Duncan’s tail wag faster than knowing he is going for a car ride. If the destination at the end of that ride is anywhere near a park or woods, he is in heaven.
One of the most appealing things about living in Palos Park is that you are centered amid the forest preserves of Cook County. There are acres and acres of recreational land and open space where millions of visitors and residents alike can take advantage of hiking, biking, fishing, canoeing or simply relaxing and taking in the wonders of nature. And, spending time with their dogs on walks or hikes.
My youngest son, Brian, has been trying to convince me for the past 6 months that the preserves are by far a better place to go with Duncan than just taking him on our usual walks around the neighborhood. I’ve been reluctant to heed his advice because frankly, I’m with the little pooch all day long and have come to learn about his deep streak of stubbornness. In short, we have trust issues. I’m not so sure he’d stick close to me or would come if he got too far away and I called him.
Now, this past week, it was unusually warm for this time of year. I found myself standing at the sliding glass door looking out over what I had hoped was the end of the frigid, Chicago weather. It was gorgeous outside. The sky was clear blue. I looked down at my puppy who was sitting next to my feet, looking back and forth between his outdoor playground and up at me. His tail would wag every time our eyes met. It was as if he was speaking to me through his big brown eyes. In the back of my mind I could hear my son’s voice – “take him to the woods.”
And so, I did.
I changed into my hiking boot and grabbed his leash and off we went. He bounded into the backseat of the car as if he knew where we were going. His tail was wagging furiously as he pranced from one window to the other, back and forth, all the way until we got to our destination.
When we pulled into one of Palos Park’s many beautiful forest preserves, I parked the car and grabbed his leash. I held it in my hand rather than attaching it to his collar, as Brian had encouraged, opened the back door of the car and out Duncan bound. He stayed close by my side, walking briskly through the parking lot and over the attached opened field, his nose to the ground the entire way – sniffing as if his life depended on it.
We took the path that wound along the tree line as far as we could see. It eventually disappeared into the woods – and so did we. And here, this was the spot that Duncan felt free. He started to run. He ran along the ravine, jumping over felled trees and their stumps and through the thick patches of roots and brush. I was walking at a brick pace behind him. He’d get just so far ahead of me, stop to look and make sure I was still there, and then wait for me. As I would catch up, he’d begin this routine again. He’d race down hills and then back up again, huffing and puffing and panting. Always keeping his eye on me to make sure I was there.
I was amazed! I Loved it! And, I knew he did too. It was beautiful out and so peaceful in the woods. There were leaves matted all along the forest floor and winding trickles of streams. If you stopped and listened carefully, you could hear the sounds of forest life all around you. I felt invigorated! And, Alive! And like, Pioneer Woman! Yes! I was keeping up and hiking deep into the forest and through muddy underbrush – (very unlike me!) I quickly discovered that I loved this part of Palos and wandering freely all through this peaceful, beautiful setting. It was a glorious afternoon.
Soon it was time to turn around and head back. So we did. Back along the ravines and the hills. Back over the felled trees and muddy earth. Duncan led the way, I followed.
When we got back to the car, he hopped up into the front seat as if he felt he had somehow earned that place today. I walked around to my side of the car, got in, opened up the windows of the stuffy car, turned on the ignition and slowly pulled out of the parking lot. We were hot and dirty. My shoes had mud on them. He had dirt all over his fur. And, I was sorry to see our time in the woods come to an end. It had been such a great first experience together out there.
I looked over at Duncan. He was standing sideways on the passenger seat, head sticking out the half-opened window. His ears were flying back in the wind. His big gummy lips were flapping in the breeze. His tail was wagging.
I smiled to myself as we headed down the road towards home. I thought back to the time one year ago almost to the day when I went against Clark’s wishes and brought home our new family member. I knew deep in my heart that my decision was the best one. And, Nope, not a single day had gone by since that decision where either of us have regretted adding him to our family tree.