Wolfie had one of his bad-limp days on Sunday, and I was thinking maybe he shouldn't come on our evening walk. But when it was time to leave, my husband decided to join us and, hating to leave Wolfie alone, I put leashes on him and Bisou and we set off on one of Wake Robin's many paths.
You could wander practically forever in the woods here. The paths themselves are a thing of beauty, meticulously cleared, with lots of signs so you don't get lost, and little plank bridges over awkward spots that always make me think of Japan. You'd think people come to places like Wake Robin to get away from chores. But here the residents tap maples and boil sap for syrup; keep honeybees; do battle against buckthorn and poison parsnip; and maintain the trails. It's the Vermont take on aging.
The woods at this time of year are starting to get that slightly toasted look--the acid greens of spring giving way to the avocado shades of late summer--and on the tips of distressed trees and bushes you can see tinges of red. The birds, finished with their parenting duties, are mostly silent now. The crickets are still chirping, but their slower rhythm tells me that fall is around the corner.
Bisou and I led the way down the darkened path. Behind me Wolfie hopped on three legs--I could hear the heavy thud of each step as he came down on his good front left. He was panting loudly with the effort. "Do you think he'll get exhausted when we were far from home?" I asked my husband. "At least the ground on the paths is easier on his joints than asphalt," he said.
It's hard to know what to do about Wolfie. He spent a day at a diagnostic center a couple of weeks ago, and had lots of x-rays, which showed abnormal bone growth on his metatarsals. His joints are clear--it's not arthritis. The bone growth could be caused by cancer or by a horrible fungus, but the vets agree that either of those would have made him much sicker by now. We've tried him on different kinds of pain meds, none of which appear to make any difference.
He doesn't seem to be in acute misery. His coat looks fine and his appetite is good. He's mostly enthusiastic about going on walks. But oh, the sight of that big black dog hopping clumsily on three legs!
While Wolfie hopped and I worried, Bisou was busy collecting teeny tiny sticky burrs all over her long, wavy ears, the gold feathers on her legs and belly, and her lovely red tail. Every day after our walk I have to comb the things out of her coat, and lately they've gotten so bad that I'm almost tempted to stop walking in the woods and stay on the paved paths. But as soon as the weather turns cool the ticks will hatch again (spring and fall are their favorite seasons), and then the woods will be out of bounds until the serious cold arrives.
We walked for almost an hour, and by the time we neared the house Wolfie had stopped hopping. This could either mean that he no longer hurt, or that he was so tired of walking on three legs that he had to put his bad foot down despite the pain. Of one thing there was no question, though: he was happy.
So at least for now, while the days are long and we're still able, before the ticks hatch and the snow flies, we'll keep on walking the paths.