Black Dogs Can't Jump

This year I find myself in the position of needing to use up some vacation time or face losing it at the end of the year, so I took this past Friday off and decided to take the pups for a walk on the Lisbon Paper Mill Trail near where we live. This is a lovely paved trail through some beautiful woods that follows along the Androscoggin River. It’s fabulously cool on a warm day and surprisingly beautiful.

Blue and Bettina aren’t in racing shape by any means but this trail is only 1.6 miles total, out and back. We’ve walked it once before and we all agreed it was a wonderful walk for three couch potatoes. On Friday, I collected a couple poop bags from the convenient dispenser and off we went.

Since it was early afternoon, we had the trail mostly to ourselves. At several points we ventured off on side trails that allowed access to the river. The kids had a great time investigating the forest floor and rivers edge trying to find the squirrels and chipmunks who constantly scolded us the entire length of our journey.

At one point we came face to face with a garter snake who decided to test his luck by setting out from one side of the trail to the other directly in front of us. The snake was painfully visible on the paved path and his sinuous movement could not be missed by two sight hounds programmed by thousands of years of evolution to take notice of the slightest movement.

My initial reaction at the sight of the snake was fear. Not because I’m afraid of snakes, but because my first greyhound Girly Girl had a visceral hate of all things herpetological. Before I understood this bitter hatred she harbored, I once directed her attention to a garter snake sunning itself on a concrete block by our barn. This was early in my life with greyhounds and I clearly missed every signal of a predator stalking its mortal enemy with malice and intent to kill. Before I even realized what was happening she struck at the snake, grabbed it by the tail and whipped it around so violently that it tore apart leaving a section in the grass near us while she flung the rest of the hapless snake the entire length the barn and into the woods beyond.

She was coursing with so much adrenaline after this encounter it took everything in me to pull her back from the sad bit of innocent snake that remained in the grass in front of her. With this thought very fresh in my mind I white knuckled both Blue and Bettina’s leashes and cautiously let them investigate the snake from a safe distance (safe for the snake since the guilt over the death of the last poor snake still weighs heavily on my conscience). Blue did the greyhound equivalent of shrugging his shoulders and turned back to sniff the shrubs along the side of the trail. Bettina followed after the snake a bit, possibly trying to figure out what it was but more likely ensuring it wasn’t something edible. She determined it was not edible and thus, of absolutely no interest whatsoever.

We continued our stroll and by the time we reached the end of the trail and turned to come back both kids had tongues hanging out and behinds dragging. I was surprised that Blue was struggling because he usually loves a good walk and has made it greater distances than this trail presented. Bettina did not surprise me at all. Every walk with her includes some sort of drama. Either she is tired and puts the brakes on because she doesn’t want to go any further or she doesn’t want to go back yet and puts the brakes on because she wants to go further.

Bettina greyhound stuck over tree
With visions of needing to carry 135 total pounds of greyhound more than a half mile, I decided that a little break was in order. They dragged and moaned their way to the first side trail and slowly made their way down to the river. A tiny tree had fallen across the path at rivers edge which required stepping over in order to reach a perfect spot for sitting and admiring the river. The tree was not much of a height for any of us. Blue stepped over it. Then mumma stepped over it. We continued on, expecting Bettina would also step over it. When I reached the end of the slack on Bettina’s leash I was stopped short.

Bettina greyhound getting unstuck from tree
Turning I found Bettina standing in the path looking at me. The front half of her had made it over the tree but the back half of her seemed baffled as to how to follow. Everything about her posture and countenance said, “What do I do now?” I brightly encouraged her to hop over the tree. Hopping seemed to be absolutely out of the question. She gingerly lifted a back leg almost high enough, caught it on the tree and let it fall back down. “See?” she said. I encouraged her some more. She tried the maneuver with the other leg producing the same result. She tried each leg several more times with no luck.

She stared at me with reproach as if I had guaranteed she’d make it over if she only tried again. I could see her calculating the likelihood that I would bring her meals down there by the river. I could not convince her to try moving forward again, and she must have determined that I would NOT bring her meals down to the rivers edge (smart girl).  She decided that the best course would be to go back the way she came. Without the benefit of the ability to see the tree, her front half had forgotten how high the tree stood off the ground. Blue and I looked at each other as she tried to put first one paw and then the other up and back over the tree the way it had come with no success.

Bettina and Blue greyhound on Lisbon Paper Mill trail
I could see the fear in her eyes as she was probably picturing life without breakfast and dinner. This seemed to galvanize her and she finally managed to get one leg up onto the tree. Clearly expecting to have both halves on the same side of the tree, she looked a bit puzzled at this new turn of events.

After some more struggle she got the other paw on top of the tree and then dropped off the other side affecting a joyful reunion between her front half and her back half. We finished up our walk moving more and more slowly. As we rounded the final corner, the kids saw the car and picked up their pace significantly, practically dragging me to the car. And my doctor wonders how it can be that having two dogs, I don’t get more exercise…


  1. Ha ha ha ha ha! Oh, I love your tales of adventure. Bettina is a girl after my heart, I tell you! I won't mention the hike we went on with Bunny a couple of years ago that turned out to be a fifteen mile death march. *ahem* Bettina sounds more like Blueberry. She doesn't "do" the outdoors. At all!

  2. I love to take Truly and Maggie to our local river. It's not nearly a pretty as the Androscoggin, though. With the recent drought, they can walk all the way to the middle and not get their bellies wet! Glad you guys made it back and the little snake is still in one piece. :)

  3. What a great hike. Drama and all. My poppers are all old and out of shape. I'm sure we'd run into the same thing.


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