By Marion Brody Kelly

It’s time to admit that I am not a morning person.  During the school year, I get up at 5 am.  Not because I like to be up early, but because it takes me the extra hour and a half in my quiet classroom to turn introverted Marion into Mrs. Kelly.

Photo by Virginia Weiler

Each summer, I plan to continue those early starts in order to stretch out those juicy days as long as possible.  Doesn’t happen.  All to say we didn’t get an early start as we headed to the Muddy Creek Greenway.

I have lived in Winston-Salem long enough to remember this area as all farmland.  It is still lovely and open, but now there are schools and housing developments along with the horses and fields.

We pulled down the long, unpaved drive to the parking lot, and were quickly immersed in the crickets and bird calls of a hot summer morning.  This stretch of greenway is well used by bike riders, and it’s easy to see why.  We stayed off the path and close to the trees and shrubs to enjoy the shade, and the dogs went right to work with their noses.  I proudly offered the new “Gulpy” to the dogs.  What a great invention: a water bottle with an attached plastic trough for a portable refreshment stand.  Sammy politely lapped some up, but Jake appeared to think it was either a trick or a punishment, and refused to look at it.  We had a pleasant walk, and decided to turn around as the heat increased.  A nice place to visit, but not one I’d make the long drive to again.

Strolling back towards the car, the dogs abruptly took a left turn into the bushes.  Whoa.  There was a faint path there, and before I could redirect them, I saw the creek.  Oh, right, Muddy Creek!  They gamboled on down to the water while I lurched behind them, silently praising extending leashes.  The water in this creek, not actually muddy, is deep enough for dogs to romp and paddle safely on their leashes.  The bottom is soft, fine sand and the water was flowing nicely.

If you have never seen your dog swim, you must correct that immediately.  At two and a half, Sammy has had more experience with the water than Jake. Sam loves to hop in and out of the water like a giant, hairy frog.  The joy grows in his eyes with each noisy, self-induced belly flop.

Jake, not quite a year old, is far more gregarious than Sam and a bit of a rowdy guy in general, but Salem Lake was his first experience with water that didn’t come from a faucet.  He danced up and down the bank, following Sam’s cavorting until he couldn’t stand it.  Then he plunged in.

Jake plowed out beyond Sam until he was swimming, otter-like, with his long jaw stretched just above the water line, his lips in a grin.  I think I could see a thought balloon over his head. I think it said, “Holy CRAP!  This is FUN!”

I stood on the bank holding their leashes like they were some kind of water kites, dipping, splashing and gliding at the end of their tethers.  When at last it was time to go, I made another important discovery: beware of tangly things when your dogs are swimming on extended leashes, like that big stump I wandered too close to.  I got to get a little wet too, in the unwinding process, but it was no great loss.  That’s what old tennis shoes and hot July mornings are for.

Creek water adds a bit of a tang to normal dog perfume, so when we got home again, we headed right out back for a hose-off.  These same two beasts who just experienced life transforming joy in the creek displayed utter misery and humiliation under the hose.  I think it’s just an act.

So, here’s my thought: These trails are great for dogs and their people.  How fun would it be to add some off-leash areas to some of the greenways, or even a little bit of a dog-splashing beach?  I’d pay a fee with my dog license to support that.  I think lots of people would.  Dog owners, stand up!

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