By Terri Smith —
At first light I roll out of bed and into my work clothes and head outside to take the dogs for a walk. The exercise is good for all of us, and in spite of having never been a morning person I have come to look forward to my new routine.
I step outside, let the dogs off the balcony, fill two water buckets, and bring water to the ducks and goats while the dogs wrestle in the yard. Amadeus, normally chased from the hay by his goat family, becomes courageous at my side. He stays close, sometimes leaning right up against me or standing on my feet, and should any of the others come too near he tilts his head menacingly at them warning them to stay away from me. He’s only brave when either the dogs or I am there to back him. As soon as I finish gathering an armful of hay from the bale he comes skipping along behind me back to his own private manger in the greenhouse. Usually he stays and eats while the dogs and I walk, but as the snow melts and more of the ground appears he decides to venture out with us a little further each day.
Today he comes right out to the garden with us then pauses as we head up the hill towards the forest. He hangs back, looking at the rest of the herd then back at us. He seems to be unsure whether or not the walk is worth the effort. I sigh and remove Quoia’s collar and leash. After making the dogs sit I walk back to Amadeus and fasten the collar around his neck. Soon he is bounding along beside me with the two dogs trying to simultaneously heel and stay out of his way.
Once in the forest I remove his collar and we walk single file along the mossy path and over the last remnants of snow. The dogs accept Amadeus as if he were one of them, and I reflect that they have even learned to read each others’ body language. When Quoia, the youngest dog, becomes too rambunctious, Amadeus has only to tilt his head at her in warning and she will roll over in full submission. And while I have never seen the other goats back off from a head-butt they have committed to, he seems to know that when she rolls onto her back she is telling him he has won and surprisingly he will stand down. They can’t always do everything together: Amadeus does not appreciate a half-chewed deer leg being thrust at him by Kasha in an attempt to play, and his pointy little hooves are pretty useless in the snow. But in spite of, or maybe because of their differences, it always makes me smile to be out for a walk with my three billy-dogs gruff.
Terri Smith is an organic vegetable farmer in the Cariboo with Road’s End Vegetable Company. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Literature and a diploma in Art.