I’m going on a picnic by the Bow River with Samson the Border Collie mix. We’ll eat our lunch by the Bow River. The first thing I have to do to prepare is pack my canvas backpack with items we’ll need: dog treats and kibble for Samson, a tuna sandwich for me, sunscreen, sun hat, a light sweater, and a cold thermos of water. Samson is a water connoisseur and likes his water fresh and cold.

I put Samson on his leash and we start walking toward Memorial and the river. It’s a sunny and crisp fall day. The leaves have turned yellow and it looks pretty outside. There’s a slight breeze. What could be better than a dog walk in nature?

Samson is twelve years old, so we walk slowly. When he was younger, he liked to chase rabbits at bullet-like speed. Now, he’s content to smell the roses. He’s content, that is, as long as there isn’t a rabbit in sight. If he spots a rabbit, though, watch out! He’ll surprise you with how fast he can still run. He loves to get out and have littles adventures like this, as do I.

As we get closer to the river, I see lots of people out taking advantage of the late fall weather: walkers, bikers, dog walkers, women pushing baby carriages. There are no rafters, however. Not seeing the river rafts drifting downstream with people in them, basking in the sun, is a reminder that summer is over and the long winter is on its way.

I reach in my backpack and put on my sweater as it’s already getting chillier than when we first left the house. I spot a few dogs playing fetch with their owners on the shore by the fast-moving river. Samson is happy to sit off the walking path on the grass and watch them for a few minutes. He doesn’t like to get his paws wet. He’s a fastidious dog and he’ll go to extraordinary lengths to sidestep puddles.

As we continue our walk by the water on the path, I keep my eye out for a bench where I can sit. I spot one up ahead that’s partially shaded by a tree and head toward it. I sit on the bench and Samson lies down next to me. I fill his bowl with water and set it next to him. He drinks the water but is soon distracted by a few black squirrels scampering up the trees in front of us. I grab on to his lead as he lunges for them.

I watch the squirrels scamper away, jumping from one tree branch to the next. We settle in. Samson lies down in front of me. There’s a great view of the river from this bench as well as of the skateboarders, bikers, and joggers on the path.

I read the inscription on a plaque on the bench. The dedication says, “To our father who walked this Bow River path every morning.” The inscription reminds me that being with Samson on this scenic path by the river isn’t to be taken for granted. This person the bench is dedicated to loved this river and this path, but he’s no longer able to enjoy it.

I take in the moment and watch the sun sparkling down on the water and enjoy the fall colours of orange, yellow, and some red gloriously lit by the sun. Soon this bench will be covered with snow. My gratitude moment is interrupted by a nearby wasp which I try to ignore as it buzzes around Samson and me. Samson keeps pawing it as the wasp comes at him Kamikaze style, and, as it goes close to his face he tries to eat it. His jaw snaps open and shut a few times. The wasp buzzes away.

Thanks to Samson’s snapping jaws, I can unwrap my tuna sandwich now that he’s driven the wasps away. I feed Samson his kibble along with some water from his collapsible water bowl and he settles down. My sandwich tastes delicious but it’s messy. The mayo starts dripping all over my hand. A few more wasps have gathered around. I need to eat the sandwich super fast and get rid of the wrapper.

Samson is hyper alert. There’s a lot for him to do between swiping and trying to catch a few more wasps and lunging at a pack of geese waddling near us on the path. I’m holding his leash and my arm is almost pulled out of the socket when he lunges.

“Don’t get into a fight with geese, Samson,” I say, as they squawk back at him and continue walking on. “You’re not going to win.”
Samson starts barking, a “get away from here!” warning. They continue to waddle on and Samson sits down again, watching them go, making sure they get the message that he’s the boss. I continue to eat my tuna sandwich.

The wind is blowing the wax paper that my tuna sandwich is wrapped in and knocks over Samson’s water bowl. Samson looks like he’s loving the wind. He’s got his head raised toward the sky and his nose is twitching back and forth. The wind gusts must be bringing some interesting smells and is parting his gorgeous, glossy black fur at the top of his head.

I look up at the sky. The dark clouds forming making it feel like the middle of the night. “A big storm is on the way,” I say to Samson. I try to finish my sandwich and take the last couple of bites, but the wasps are back, making it difficult to finish. It’s now super, The Wizard of Oz, windy. I attach the collapsible dog bowl to my backpack and put Samson’s treats away. I grab his lead.

“Come on, pup.”

We begin walking. Just then, my sun hat blows away. I try to jump up to grab it, but it begins drifting upwards and out of reach. As we cross the bridge in the direction of home, I watch it land in the river and get taken away with the fast-moving current.

I’m really going to miss my sun hat, I think, as I lead Samson home. Somehow, the wind, which has caused me to not only lose my sun hat but many of the yellow leaves to fall at once, symbolizes the beginning of winter. There are bare spots on the trees and wet leaves are collecting on the ground.

Large drops of cold, wet snow begin falling from the sky, making me miss the protection of my sun hat. Samson starts to speed up, heading directly for home. He can’t talk, but I’m sure if he could, he’d say he doesn’t like the top of his head and paws getting wet and he can’t wait to get home. What a relief we got in most of our excursion before the snow.

Once in the house, I towel Samson down. His beautiful coat glistens. He seems invigorated by the running and the patting down with a soft terry cloth towel, by the experience of being out in bad weather.

“Yes, it was an adventure, right, Samson?” I kiss his nose and as he goes to have a drink of water and rest. I make a cup of tea. What a success our excursion was. Samson saw squirrels, told a pack of geese who’s boss, and we both ate a delicious lunch. We got in a walk on one of the last days of autumn.

For the first time in a long time, I turn the fireplace on and Samson rests near it on his black and white fleece blanket. We were happy to be out in nature, and now content to be in and warm, to be home.

Published by Dogs Today
August 18, 2022