Ten thousand paces to the rhythmic tap of trusty walking cane
The panting patter of eight tiny paws split leashed in double rein;
Our faithful Westies scent out the hidden trails;
Where passing coyote, dog or skunk have sprayed their signs.
In Spring, we take the old Kemp Road, before the seed is sown,
Over sandy hill and shaded bush to pick the fiddlehead fern.
Wild turkey flee in single file, and deer a distance mind,
We keep close watch on coyote for an ambush from behind.
The Summer route’s from the parking lot behind the grocery store,
Through balmy pines of Mystery Park where crows and ravens caw;
Along the winding river path of roots scalped by spring-time flows,
Back along the sewer line, fragrant incense to a canine nose!
As Summer drifts towards the Fall, sweet raspberries and tangy blackberries entice
My stick to clasp luscious clusters from ivy’s poisonous embrace.
Elderberries droop heavy, and the rosy crab-apples signal jelly-time,
Wild mushrooms beckon those who for their earthy flavours dare to dine.
Back we wander to a long forgotten sandy excavation
In a fossil dune-rimmed beach from ancient Lake Champlain,
Where sandhill cranes nest amid the rusted frame of an abandoned truck,
And, sheltered near the Mer Bleue Bog, a sedge-lined bed for white-tailed buck.
Hidden by the corn field, we hike the deep ditch line,
Past stalks trampled by marauding deer, and cobs gnawed by porcupine;
We maze through towering corridors of rustling stover and golden ears,
In peaceful separation from a world of fears and tears.
Hips and haws of thorn are mock holly garlands of hedged fields;
Where goldfinch and the chickadees forage ‘mid the butterflies
On carpets of goldenrod, aster and thistle down;
While burrs maddeningly knot white fur to gnaw and comb.
We rustle a mosaic of autumnal leaves; sweet is the scent of their composting ferment;
Beavers splash the ditch dammed over an aging railway culvert;
A red-flashed blackbird calls raucous indignation from a bulrush,
While dogs roll with oblivious contentment in the fetid marsh.
All too soon, the swamps and paths ice in Winter’s time,
Our breath steams, trees glisten with their coats of rime;
I stamp out paths through drifts for tiny paws to follow,
Finally, we retreat to truck-ploughed ways until return of geese and swallow.
And so, ten thousand paces more to the rhythmic tap of trusty walking cane
The panting patter of eight tiny paws split leashed in double rein...............
Bryan D. Cook September 2010
Context to Waking Our Westies
Bryan and Tanya Cook have two West Highland Terrier bitches, Abby and Tess. Bryan has walked them every day, all year for the last 14 years. This poem touches on the highlights of the usual walking routes; not specifically on the natures of the dogs themselves.
I was honoured to be named poet for February 2011 by the Poet Laureate for Canada for this poem.