By Marion Brody Kelly

As a teacher, I know that we learn only the things we want or have to learn. That explains why it was so hard for me to do algebra and so easy for my dogs to unlearn good leash walking after a few outings on the magic extendable leashes.  It made such good dog sense that pulling on a leash would make it get way longer that my optimistic friends now assume it will work with all leashes. 

We have spent two days retracing paw steps on Salem Creek Greenway, unlearning and relearning.  With the cooperation of the greenway, lessons have been pleasant enough, and good for human strength- and patience-training as well. Sam and Jake started out bounding, only to discover that neither the leashes nor my arms were elastic.  There were some sights and smells that went unexplored. I remind myself that the goal of good dog citizenship may not always support ultimate dog pleasure.  Hmmm, I think that is true of parenting, teaching, and living.  Even in the summer.

I have rediscovered my love for this greenway. Over the years, I have seen trees rise and fall, and then disappear into the greedy vines.  Yesterday’s flattened creek has swelled swirling brown with today’s rain.  Since we started our walks, the cicadas have come to join the noisy mix in the trees.  I’m not sure, but I think I saw the flash of a goldfinch leaving a branch above us.  The same path takes me somewhere new with each visit.

I worry each time I set off for a new greenway that I won’t find it, that it might not be safe, that it might not be fun.  After our visit last week to Silas Creek Greenway, we came home to discover that our empty house had been robbed.  Maybe that was why I had to go back to my safe greenway again, even though the scary thing happened at home.

This week my dogs relearn leashes and limits.  I have to once again learn the gift of stepping off somewhere new.

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