Early-morning winter runs bring lovely gifts. The stars twinkling brightly from the deep black sky. The sharp and comforting scent of piney-rosemary in the clear cold air. The soft, low “who?-who?” of the owls. The feel of spacious quiet in the pre-dawn.
There are some mornings when the sun is making itself known toward the end of my trek, and I’m taking my last few strides under a golden pink sky. On those occasions, I encounter a man walking his dog.
This is no run-of-the-mill human-dog pair. The man is very tall, his posture erect but not rigid. He moves smoothly, with a certain grace. His gait is measured, steady, long legs setting a consistent pace. They say dogs and their guardians look alike, and it is true in this case. Strolling alongside the man is a Harlequin Great Dane - a long, tall and slender canine sporting a white coat with large black patches. The dog moves fluidly, its sleek body both elegant and athletic.
Remarkably, there is a flock of birds that surrounds and trails the duo in a cloud of wings and beaks. Mostly magpies and crows, the birds swoop, land, peck the road and lift into the air again, cawing and calling in a whir of circular motion. It is a wonder to behold: man, dog, birds, all moving along in an unlikely tableau.
The man seems oblivious, his calm poker face giving nothing away. Looking more closely, though, I spy his hand reaching into a rectangular canvas bag that hangs from his shoulder. It seems he is giving something away: birdseed.
He is scattering the seed behind him as they walk. He does not look around to witness the avian stir he’s causing, but the Great Dane sure does. The dog is trying so hard to be on best behavior, doing its utmost to step along with the aristocratic nonchalance of the man. But the dog’s curiosity wins out, head swiveling from one side to the other, then looking up at the man, head cocked as if to say: “But…the birds? Chase? Bark? At the birds?”
The man ignores the birds and ignores the dog. He continues to walk along. Is he training the dog to eventually ignore the birds as well? Does he enjoy the company of these feathered friends? Or perhaps, like the Bird Woman in Mary Poppins, he is demonstrating kindness and caring in this simple yet profound way, feeding the birds.
Jacqueline Denny, ACC, CHPC, LMT