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Tally Walks

Story ID:6537
Written by:Michael Timothy Smith (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Halifax Nova Scotia Canada
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A good friend of mine allowed me to use this story in my newsletter.

Tally Walk

On June 29,2005, Tally was euthanized, bringing an end to the suffering she endured
over the past few weeks. Melanie and I attended and Rya sent along a toy animal with her
scent on it. She went to sleep listening to us murmur calming words of love. Our grief
weighs on us. We loved our little Duck Toller.

That afternoon, as I have done almost every day for the past two years, I set out on one of
our walks, across Gorsebrooke field. Seeing her in my mind’s eye, of course, chasing a
ball, investigating the Lacrosse Rink for signs of a game to interrupt or at the very least a
leftover ball to possess, then on through Saint Mary’s University campus to the large
lawns of the old property which once housed the music conservatory.

We’d turn for home and walk through the narrow strip of woodland above the railroad
cut. I knew where she would have been at every turn, for her habits and mine had been
forged into a mutually satisfying pattern. I came home feeling her loss intensely,
imagining her running to the garden hose, waiting for me to uncurl it and spray her with a
cooling mist of water.

Today, July First, Canada Day, I set out on another walk, her favourite, along the paths
and by the waters of Point Pleasant Park. I have decided to continue the daily walks that
had taken us to Purcells pond, Grand Lake, Mount Uniack Park, York Redoubt, Long
Lake and of course Point Pleasant.

It rained last night and continued into the day, finally easing off with a dullness and
dampness accentuated by a thick fog along the shore. It was a day shaped for sorrow but I
hoped, not for self-pity. I really wanted the walks to continue because of my newfound
fitness. I have really increased my endurance on the badminton and tennis courts due in
large measure to the walks I took with Tally. More importantly, in a period of my life
where stress seemed to come from every quarter-the walks gave me time to really think,
to examine my actions and myself with a ruthless honesty. I learned a lot about my many
failings on these walks after I had stripped away my self-defenses. Luckily, I also saw
some good in some of the things I had accomplished. Walking with a dog gives you this
gift. The dog wants your attention and wants to please you but also wants to enjoy a dog
life that she keeps only for herself. I could observe her making her way through the
world of other dogs, other animals, other humans. This she did with a complete honesty
and respect for herself. Showing caution but not cowardice. Showing interest but never
intrusiveness. Showing affection but never fawning. This day, alone and very lonely, I
remembered all these Tally qualities. As I followed our old route, I could see her every
step of the way. Because we did the same things every time at the same spots, I knew
when to turn my head or where to glance in order to see her at her appointed rounds. I
wept often. I whistled for her just to hear the familiar sounds that I made only for her. I
walked through the damp weeping grasses and low hanging branches, showered by the
wet leaves, down a ravine to the now dry brooks and mud holes, seeing little through the
fog. When I arrived at “our” field beside the Atlantic Ocean I sat on the park bench as
always. Sat and ate my apple as I always did, while she paraded up and down the rocky
beach at my feet, searching, searching, for the perfect stick, or ball or rock for me to toss.
Where was she? I wept and called her name into the sea. Then I stood and spoke out into
the fog, to a place where she might have been swimming unseen and I thanked her for
giving me these perfect walks, these perfect times that we will no longer know together. I
spoke the words aloud being the only person present. I finished my apple and headed
along the Northwest Arm to the little spring that trickled down a rock face, to puddle near
the roadway. Tally would pause here for a drink and there was usually a leaf protruding
from the rock face like a little green tea pot spout inviting humans to taste the delicious
cool water spilling out from under the Point Pleasant Forest.

It was here that I met my friend David York and his dog Riley, park regulars like Tally
and me. David took one look and knew from my face and manner that I was alone and
guessed why. He came to me with his hand outstretched and held me in his arms as I
began to cry. After a moment I was able to tell him what had happened. He was just what
I needed at that point in my walk and I thanked him for his caring sincerity. I continued
on, still sensing her at every turn. Remembering, remembering, as I shall always
remember her on every one of our walks.

Finally, the muddy, shallow, Quarry Pond. Her most favourite spot, with a clutch of
water Lilies at one end and a low sloping rock to leap off at full tilt near the middle.
Close by and rooted in the rock a lonesome pine which shaded me as I watched her on
her explorations, swimming among the lily pads searching for balls or sticks, running
along the top of the low rock outcropping directly across from my resting spot tree.

I looked up today to see her in my minds eye and astonishingly there she was. But older
and slower. A lovely old Toller, walking along where she would surely have been. I
quickly walked around the pond to intercept her. She looked at me in that polite and
guarded way that Tollers have and walked on. She had the same coat as Tally, a deep red
on her back , lighter on her tail and leg feathers, and the familiar amber eyes that reflect a
gentle nature and intelligence. I followed the old Toller who was several hundred feet
behind her owners. When they turned to check on her I shouted out- “Is this a Mary
Brooks Dog ?” Mary was the breeder from whom we had purchased Tally nearly seven
years ago. Melanie remarked yesterday that she could clearly see Rya holding the little
puppy as we drove home. The little puppy that would become a cherished family member
and dear, dear friend.

“Yes”, the owners replied.

“Is that Belle?” I asked, naming Tally’s Mother, although I couldn’t imagine how Tally’s
Mother would be here at this time and place.

“No.” They replied, “It’s Belle’s sister Amie”.

I feel released. Certain of something that I can’t name. Marveling at this amazing co-
incidence. Getting one more glimpse of my beloved doggy girl. I want to thank someone,
some thing. Fate. Nature. Perhaps even Tally herself.

Barry Cowling