Bombarded by news feeds that shrill, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!”, even a stoic like me, grows morose occasionally. There are so many behaviors that baffle me, so many inexplicable points of view that make me wonder why mankind assumes it is superior to the rest of the animal kingdom. From my vantage point, man is simply less tolerant and more lethal.
To reset my equanimity I generally put some distance between me and the world by hiking or biking off the beaten path. Just a mile from my front door lies the Santa Ana River, a mile-wide, rock-strewn, paradise where I can wander for hours and the girls can sniff, chase, and roll in whatever disgusting thing they can find. There’s not much that the $#!t-eating grin of a happy dog can’t cure.
In the cool of the morning, we set off with a full hydration pack, a trekking stick with the rubber tip removed, and a small canister of pepper gel. Why the defensive weapons, you ask? Well, the local news source had published a story of a man and his gentle Labrador Retriever being attacked by a couple of pit bulls, only a mile away from our sanctuary. The owner of the dogs stuck around long enough for the Sheriff to show up, but he gave a false address so animal control wasn’t able to take any action. The article included a photo of the man’s vehicle, which included a license plate, so I would imagine he will eventually be tracked down. Sadly, his dogs will suffer for his ignorance.
At any rate, with the violence of the world on my mind, we set off. Taking comfort in the fact that the dogs have had their rattlesnake vaccines, I allowed them to explore off trail, knowing they are not clever enough to catch anything. The farther we got from civilization, the more my mind relaxed. There was ample evidence that others wander “my” trails, sneaker prints, paw prints, motorcycle tire tracks, but little trash. Two girls, wearing matching team running jerseys, greeted me pleasantly as they loped by, and a lone motorcyclist sped down a distant trail, but otherwise, we were alone with our thoughts.
And soon enough those thoughts turned to breakfast; and so our footsteps turned towards home, mind and body restored.