A Dog’s Eye View


I recently rediscovered the joy of walking, thanks to our dog, Jessie. What she lacks in conversational skills, she more than compensates for in other ways. Jessie's a wonderful listener, loves to walk anytime of the day or night, and doesn't have to consult her daily planner every time I want to hit the pavement. She walks at whatever pace is comfortable for me - that is unless a bird crosses her path.


Jessie has also proven to be the most incredible teacher. Dogs - particularly Golden Retrievers - have very sensitive noses, which they like to keep close to the pavement. By watching her when we walk, I have learned to observe my community in ways that were totally transparent to me before. These are some of the things that I have observed:


Wildflowers are infinitely more interesting than carefully manicured gardens. Our walks take us along rural roads and through a neighboring subdivision, so we get to see a variety of floral displays. While some of the gardens are really quite beautiful, Jessie and I both prefer the riot of color and scents that wildflowers display at this time of year.


Chemically treated lawns are boring. And they're also dangerous to small children and animals. Fortunately, households that rely on pesticide applications to keep their lawns looking perfect, usually place signs to that effect at the end of the driveways. As far as Jessie is concerned, they really don't need to bother. When she smells chemicals, she sticks close by my side.


Trees are nature's most perfect gift on a hot summer day. Walking under the shady branches of a tree on a really hot day is like diving into a cooling mountain stream. Jessie slows her panting and I get a refreshing break from the burning rays of the sun. I don't know why everybody doesn't have a yard full of them. Trees absorb carbon dioxide, a major contributor to global warming, and turn it into oxygen. They provide protection against damaging ultraviolet radiation and they cool the pavement and the air. As few as three properly planted trees around a home can cut air-conditioning bills by 10 to 50 percent.  In the winter, they act as windbreaks and can considerably reduce heating costs. Not only that, but dogs love trees.


Every day on our walks we pass hundreds of pop cans and bottles, but rarely do we see an empty beer can. It's unlikely that this is because beer drinkers are more responsible than pop drinkers. I suspect instead that it has everything to do with the deposit charged on beer containers. A simple five-cent deposit on all pop cans would clean up the ditches far faster than any community recycling blitz.


Jessie and I have also observed that a lot of people have so much stuff that they dump it out on the driveways on Saturday and Sunday mornings with the hope of selling it off to their neighbors. What I find particularly troublesome about this practice is that as soon as they get rid of their old stuff, they replace it with something new. This isn't just silly - it's symptomatic of a much greater ill. We in the developed world consume 86 percent of the world's resources while only representing 20 percent of the population. Maybe it's time we learned to accumulate less stuff.


The overall volume of waste material (i.e. both garbage and recyclables) that people put out for collection is much less at households that use their blue boxes. What this tells Jessie and I is that people who care enough to recycle, seem to also care enough to consciously reduce the amount of waste they generate in general. On the downside, recyclables don't smell nearly as interesting as garbage on a hot summer day. For a dog, this is definitely a disadvantage.


Perhaps the best lesson that Jessie has taught me is that heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads. For those who care to look, there is an entire universe laid out at our feet, particularly on our morning walks. Tiny insects scurry along, while valiant wildflowers take root in the cracks of the sidewalk. Beautiful yellow finches and noble brown sparrows hop along the pavement in search of breakfast. The sunlight dancing on the dew-soaked grass makes it glisten like emerald velvet and the pebbles on the side of the road glitter like precious jewels. This is the kingdom of the early morning walker and Jessie and I are its queens.




For more information about the benefits of urban trees, check out Tree Canada's website at www.treecanada.ca and go to "Tree Trivia".