Ashland State Park

Ella knows this place, is excited to get out of the car…so many other dogs to play with…pass the yellow gate, and the leash is off….Ella runs in circles, greets a chocolate lab puppy, keeps pace with her, greets the lab’s older friend, a white muzzled brown mixed breed dog…Ella moves on, keeps her nose to the ground until she finds her next friend.

Walk down the hill to the lake side, see the ice fishermen coming up the hill, black buckets in hand, watch the crew of yellow labs playing on the snow covered beach……Ella runs fast circles around them, no other dog catching up with her….large circles, the kind of running she needs, always circling back to me….

40 degrees, a February heat wave, perfect weather for human and canine feet to crunch across the thin layer of snow that covers the floor of the woods….

Follow the curve of the lake toward the dam…take careful steps on the ridge, look for places to carefuly edge down to the flatter paths, but Ella is burdened by none of this…she flies and flies and circles back to me.

There must have been twenty dogs to greet today, at least twenty…a slender, tall, tan Ridgeback in a loose fitting jacket, her small, sinewy, non-descript brown friend….a big, thick chested silver lab…single and paired dogs walking with single and paired, two legged friends.

Look at the snow covered trees, the man walking confidently across the ice, and the people who say they are afraid to let their dogs off-leash because they don’t want them to go on the ice…but there’s danger in that too:  a puppy tangled up in another dog’s leash  yelps, and when I look, I see the break, the way the puppy’s carpus and foot flop in the wrong direction, a distal humeral break.

We are out here, far away from anything I could use to help the puppy.  No black bag in my trunk, no pain meds, nothing to use as a splint.  Her owner picks her up to carry her back up the hill, and I wonder what emergency clinic they will take her to on this Sunday afternoon.

Ella runs, runs, runs, exactly what a beagle needs.  She doesnt know the risks.  I do.  It’s worth the risks, every minute out here, every breath of clean air, every flop of her Dumbo ears.

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