Sunday, November 20, 2011
An abandoned delivery truck, obsolete processing equipment, and stacks of milk crates inside a crumbling brick structure welcome visitors to a tract of land aptly known as The Dairy Farm. Dog-loving folks visit not for a glimpse into the past but for a chance to enjoy the company of their four-legged friend in an outdoors environment. The landscape is diverse with dense woodland and flowering shrubs near the front of the property while marshland and winding creeks are found at the farthest reaches but visitors are few as this hidden gem is known mainly to folks in the dog community and that's the way we like it. Erin's body language goes into overdrive as the defunct dairy is neared; the anticipation of the outing causes her tail to move in a blur while she prances about as if walking on hot coals. Once the car door is opened she leaps down without hesitation and takes in the first of a thousand scents while giving me a look that says "Hurry up already."
Erin chooses one of several routes and leads the way while I follow closely; if too much distance is put between us she is recalled immediately. Generally there's no need for a leash as threats and distractions found in the city are fewer so the leather leash is put away and she is free to explore at will. Lizards, birds, and fiddler crabs are more than happy to oblige her curious nature but it's the thriving squirrel population that keeps her active and happy. She lowers her profile like a lion stalking a gazelle while slowly approaching her prey and when the time is right breaks into a sprint towards the unsuspecting squirrel. She is fast but not fast enough thus Erin is left staring upwards at the mocking squirrel but a positive attitude is maintained and she moves on to the next great chase when the time is right.
The soaring temperature and humidity of summer affected humans and animals alike thus mud puddles were a welcome sight for Erin. Whenever possible I steered her clear of the disgusting pools of water but on occasions she ignored my pleas and plopped down in the muck to cool off after running in the searing heat. Thoughts of a poisonous snake lying in the puddle crossed my mind but thankfully one never appeared and after a soothing soak Erin exited dripping wet, hair matted, and paws caked in mud; she was one happy girl albeit filthy and in need of a liberal dousing with shampoo. Unfortunately shade options are limited on the dairy farm but a massive oak tree with overhanging branches does the trick nicely; this ancient marvel towers over everything else while making a nice reference point for anyone who becomes disoriented. This is arguably the largest oak tree in the area and its majestic arms cast a large patch of shade for those seeking refuge from the sun; Erin laid near me and together we watched the world slowly revolve.
While not an avid swimmer Erin loved being in the water especially if canine brethren joined in on the fun so on several occasion's she ended up wrestling near the muddy banks, chasing balls, and playing tug of war in the shallow end. She made a great cheerleader urging others to swim further out then to return for another round of playtime while I kept an eye out for alligators despite this not being a known swimming hole. The dairy farm is a special place for dogs while they are alive thus it's no surprise to see crosses with collars hanging upon them, burial markers inscribed with names, and flowers honoring them after they transition to the other side. Under a broad tree near the entrance one finds a collection of tributes to man's best friend while simple crosses can be found scattered far and wide across the farm; any beloved friend would be lucky to be buried there and I find it very touching to read words of remembrance.
Low-lying areas of marshland is revealed to those who venture further ahead and it's worth the trek to reach this point; offshoots from the Savannah river casually snake through the area and extend outward for as far as the eye can see. Wading birds greet visitors but otherwise it's eerily quiet except for the clanging of Erin's metallic tags and a continuous breeze rustling the vegetation. Compact hard soil is replaced by mushy ground that sinks under the weight of any creature who trods upon it and wildlife prints along the pathway is a reminder that man and dog does not rule this tract of land. We continue along the route to our intended destination a few miles away and eventually reeds taller than humans are encountered; the imposing growth prohibits seeing anything other than what lies ahead but the brackish scent filling the air informs us that water lines both side of the pathway.
Erin and I continue towards the furthermost point of our journey when suddenly a clearing in the vegetation reveals all...Two strands of rope tied between trees with attached multicolored pieces of cloth flapping in the wind. These strips in various degrees of tatter from mother natures abuse are inscribed with personal thoughts, reflections, famous quotes and tributes to beloved animals; a waterproof bag with magic markers and blank clothes inside dangles from a tree if anyone wishes to make their thoughts known. Photos of deceased dogs with touching sentiments, miniature scrolls bound with ribbons, and other personal effects can be found as well and the atmosphere of this shrine is pure love and serenity. The dairy farm was a magical setting for Erin as it offered everything a dog could wish for while giving us so many memorable days together. Great times indeed! RIP Erin!!