I went for a walk

What I saw: the woods of the Kitchawan Preserve, Ossining, New York

What I wore: tall black custom Vogel field boots, Prince of Wales spurs, light brown Pikeur full-seat breeches, lilac 3/4-sleeve L.L.Bean polo shirt, Charles Owen Ayr8 helmet, prescription sunglasses, black SSG® Soft Touch™ Riding Gloves. 

What I did beforehand: overslept



Who went with me: Remonta Hado, aged 15, also sometimes known as Hado or Brown or, even, Big Brown.

How I got here: a set of random, impulsive decisions that might be impossible to replicate.

Why I went for a walk: we have been working very hard and needed a break. It was a perfectly clear, bright, dry sunny day.

Where I sat: Devouxcoux mono-flap dressage saddle.

Things that were sad: you, my readers, won’t look at my last blog post

Things that were funny: there are signs posted in this park stating that dogs must be on leash, and also further stipulating that dogs must be on a leash up to six feet long. I do occasionally see people walking a dog on a leash here, but almost always see people with their dogs off leash. Walking a dog off-leash is a great pleasure, of course, for both the dog, that gets to explore its freedom, and the walker, who walks and indulges in the sight of their dog moving at liberty. But it all depends on an owner’s ability to call the loose dog and leash it up again. I saw three dogs on this walk. The first was a black lab mix named Lola. Lola’s owners shouted “come” about eleven or twelve or eighty-one times before it occurred to them to turn around and walk the other way. Their apology was, “Oh, she’s never seen a horse before.”

Things that were not funny: the next dogs I saw were a pair of merle Australian shepherds. Their owners were calling shrilly but fruitlessly, as well, perhaps unaware of the deer their dogs were presumably pursuing, when suddenly the dogs exploded from the dense brush, charged me and my quiet, motionless horse who retained all of his composure while the marauding, barking fluff-balls were re-captured. These owners shouted at me accusingly about how they hadn’t any place to move off the trail (a statement so incomprehensible I am still mulling it over, days later), and flexed their muscles dragging off the canine ruffians by the neck and making no apology at all as we paraded sedately past them. 


What it is: the Kitchawan Preserve is a 208-acre natural area bordered by New York City reservoirs. It features reasonably well-maintained, wooded trails and a few open fields. It is lovely in all four seasons, though it can be very muddy after strong rains, and is heavily used by dog-walkers, particularly on weekends in fine weather. It was once a research facility of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. There are two horse farms abutting the preserve, though I rarely see other riders in the woods. 

Who should see it: didn’t Thoreau say, “Not till we are lost in the woods on horseback, out of the earshot of people and their dogs, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations?” 

What I saw on the way home: when we emerged from the woods and stepped back onto the mowed, grassy paths of the farm where Hado lives, we were again among Hado’s folk, the herd. Horses stood in paddocks alone and in pairs, heads bowed in worship of one of their gods, the late summer grass, and another of their gods, the sunshine.  Hado glanced in the direction of two of his equine brethren and compelled them to dance in his direction. He celebrated their greeting with a sequence of bounces, tossing his head and shoulders and laughing in his throaty bass-baritone. I gave him a kick, and directed him back to the barn.

Adapting

Friday morning, Ramon knocked on the door of our apartment.  After an exchange of words, it somehow became clear to me that he had come to collect towels that wanted washing, exchanging them for new, clean ones that he fetched from downstairs.  Ramon is a person of some responsibility within this building, but I cannot understand most of what he says to me, and he does not seem to understand most of what I say to him.
Ramon said a lot of words to me on Thursday related to the important purpose of the special blue lock-boxes in the laundry room and how we are not supposed to have some specific thing which was contained within our lock-box in the recent past. It is unclear to me what that thing is. It is clear to me that whatever it is we are meant to put it back immediately, because it is so very important. After some thought, I did the only thing that made sense to me which was a) to show him my key and, b) to say that my husband had the other key.  This display did not have the desired effect on Ramon, who again reminded me of how important it was.
My first encounter with Ramon was when he emphatically said words to me that seemed connected to something about washing sheets and towels and the days of the week. If you offered me an appealing amount of cash, say $400, and told me it was mine if I could write down what Ramon told me about washing sheets and towels and the days of the week, I would only be able to shake my head sadly and slowly, because I did not understand what he said about washing sheets and towels and days of the week. What I can now say, though, is that yesterday we got clean towels, and that was Friday.
On Thursday, I washed a lot of clothes, including my pair of jeans with cat diarrhea on them.  In between loads I took the dogs to the “nearby” dog park, Robbie’s park, at the Robert Moses Playground, which turned out to be the exact square footage of the apartment.  Getting to the “nearby” dog park involves an approach requiring the crossing of several enormous and dangerous boulevards. Once we arrived, we were greeted by a group of four people and four friendly dogs who all left immediately. My dogs smelled thing for a while, squeezed out the required canine pavement deposits, and were ready to go. By the time we were back, it was like delivering two freshly steamed, 47 1/2 pound dumplings to the apartment: hot and panting and radiating heat.  The children ignored them while I fussed in the laundry room; they were given perhaps a single teaspoon of New York City tap water, which evaporated from their hot breath before they could even consume it.  I had to provide additional hydration, and they quietly slept off the experience.  Three hours later they appeared to have returned to normal internal temperatures.
On Friday, we walked down Madison to Madison Square Park, a charming urban gem of a park, thought to be the birthplace of baseball.  Contained within its boundaries is an off-leash dog run, which was full of dogs and even another Vizsla. Captain has two annoying dog-park habits: kicking gravel around, and barking loudly, frequently and at nothing in particular. He is starting to acclimate to apartment and urban life in general, and so is much more comfortable being annoying.  He did enjoy himself in Jemmy’s Park without annoying me or other people too much.  After a while a fourth Vizsla arrived, making it an Official Vizsla Party. There were Cavalier King Charles Spaniels in number, as well as a tribe of fawn-colored French Bulldogs, but it was the Vizslas that brought the outside spectators to the fence to ask what they were.
On Saturday, the entire human population of this apartment was mustered and marched to a third off-leash dog run, in Peter Detmold Park, accessed from an iron gate at the end of East 49th Street just before the FDR.  Some of us were engaged in a heated discussion about sleep and the nature of learning, while others were already hot and walking with our tongues hanging out of our mouths.  The dogs played some and drank from the bowls of water which I suspect are a terrific source of communicable canine disease. 
We have several more dog parks to find within walking distance of this apartment, and once we adjust to the time zone we will dash up to Central Park one morning to enjoy a free off-leash run before 9 a.m. 

After a week away, I miss Seattle terribly, for its superior climate and coffee, for the people I left behind, for its liberal politics and abundant recycling opportunities. But for all the livability that Seattle is supposed to embody, dogs are not ever allowed off-leash in all of its best parks, and the closest off-leash area is situated under I-5, further from our Seattle house than the three I’ve visited in Manhattan, and involves walking down either 282 or 293 stairs, depending on the route.



Doing Stuff with Dogs

If you have a dog that you have taught to sit and stay for a long time (even after you disappear), you can teach him Hide-and-Seek.  Pluto loved to play Hide-and-Seek, and would seek treats, toys, and hiding children. Sometimes, we could get him amped by telling him, “Pluto! Go find it!” He would excitedly start looking, even though he didn’t know what he was looking for.
Pluto could also heel off-leash, and really was easier and more fun to walk this way than on a leash. Of course, Seattle leash laws are very strict, and I did once get a ticket for walking my dogs off leash in an empty park.  I made my dogs come and sit and stay while I snapped on their leashes. My son, a toddler, slept in the stroller while the Animal Control officer explained to me the infraction we had committed and the associated fines I had incurred.  I paid the fine, but do not remember changing how or when or even where I walked my dogs, and did not get caught again. 
Today I do not let my dogs off-leash in the city. In part it is the dogs themselves, one being unreliable with strangers and big dogs, and the other being an incredible goof-ball and unreliable in the common-sense department.  The other piece is that I have now encountered one too many grouchy persons in Seattle, and I am tired of apologizing.
Pluto liked the dog park, but with young children it was hard for me to get him there. Mostly, he just wanted to swim and fetch. Wheatie enjoyed the dog park, too, but he enjoyed almost everything.  When he was young he was often the target of humping by the humper-dogs, and he never minded at all.  Sometimes a dog like Wheatie will end up with a cluster of humper-dogs humping his head or his rump, or even humping the other humper-dogs, and he did not mind that either.  Cherry seems to have mixed feelings about the dog park, since she is actually afraid of really big dogs. Sometimes she will go ballistically bitchy on a dog she does not like the look of, and I cannot say for sure what it is that sets her off.  She looks and sounds a lot nastier than she actually is, having the rounded teeth of a retriever, but these days, even dog-owners themselves do not always seem to know the difference between a real dog fight and a bitchy dog scolding another.
Captain brings love of the dog park to a whole new level.  I am a stickler for good behavior in the car, the parking lot and at the unleashing area of the off-leash area. I insist that they sit and stay and hold still when we arrive and leave, but as soon as Captain is unclipped from the lead and given permission to do so, he explodes with excitement.  He spends the first ten or so minutes vigorously scratching and kicking the grass with his long hind legs and barking. Sometimes the enthusiastic barking goes on for quite a while.  He gallops around the park, greeting every available dog, and always has an eye peeled for any short-haired dog that particular shade of red-brown he knows to mean Vizsla.  They say the best toy for a Vizsla is another Vizsla. In Captain’s case, it is true.  He came from a home with a lot of dogs, and he loves to chase and be chased and wrestle.

As for Hide-and-Seek, Captain understands how to wait for the hiding part, and is happy to go look, but his attention span has not yielded good results in turns of actually finding anything.