(Submitted to MOUNTAIN LIFE magazine – February 2011)
There may not be a place in a magazine like this for a guy who contemplates life while walking his dog – but not everyone is an adrenaline junkie you know! You flip through the pages of Mountain Life and you see breathtaking pictures of skiers jumping off cliffs and mountain bikers weaving through densely populated forests. What about the guy who just likes a slow deliberate walk through town or a causal bike ride along the rail trail on his hybrid “comfort” bike.
While some people like to get their heart pumping others like to slow their heartbeat to a point of suspended animation. That’s the category I fall into. About a year and a half ago my wife and I purchased a condo in Thornbury. We are close enough to retirement that we thought it might be a good idea to see what it is like to live some distance away from our home in Brampton. That’s right – we became weekenders. We got to see what it was like to slug it out all week and then make our way north to slow things down and see how sensible people live their lives. While skiing, biking and golf were all part of what drew us to the area, we were more interested in the laid back feeling of life outside of the Greater Toronto Area.
The star of our weekender adventure has been Reilly, our five-year-old West Highland White Terrior. Reilly is no ordinary dog. He is a canine with a thousand expressions. He can be aloof at times and affectionate at others. He is playful, curious and independent. However, what separates him from any other dog that I have owned is that he walks me. My old dogs would be happy with the same route everyday. Reilly walks down the driveway away from our condo and picks the direction that we will be going that day.
In some cases, if he turns left, I know we’re probably going to town, past the photographers house on the corner, maybe across the street to the old age home, certainly past The Damn Pub, and past all the stores on Bruce Street enroute to Georgian Bay (unless of course we take a hard right at Wong’s and then we’re off on a totally different tangent). I really get a charge out of this dog that picks the route. If I challenge him, he’ll plunk down and look at me like I am nuts to want to go in any direction other than the one he has chosen. Sometimes I defy him and pick my own path. In these rare cases, Reilly reluctantly adheres to my wishes. But most times, I go with the flow and follow him down the road that his nose tells him to go.
In fact, I really didn’t understand what going with the flow really meant until I became a weekender and Reilly started taking me for walks. So what if our stroll takes 45 minutes instead of a half an hour. So what if he spends a little too much time sniffing the dog statue in front of the design store. So what if my wife spends too much money at The Cheese Gallery (this has nothing to do with Reilly and, in fairness, the cheese is delicious).
Reilly and Thornbury have taught me to slow down. While I am within reach of heart-stopping, action-packed, death-defying weekends on the ski hill or the mountain bike trail, I am also within reach of a pace of play that has my heart beating at just the right rhythm. And the beauty of it all is I won’t know where the flow will go until that little dog walks me to the end of the driveway.