A not-so-relaxing visit to the farmers market

It's nesting season for burrowing owls, and they were out all over the place this morning at Tephford Park. Dusty and I had a nice peaceful walk among the owls nests and the passing bicyclists on the west end of Cypress Park Greenway as our Plan B after what turned out to be a terrifying visit to Tamarac Veterans Park.

Burrowing owl at Tephford Park
Are you looking at me?
Most Sundays, we'll head to Veterans Park, adjacent to Gary B Jones Park for People and Pups, for the weekly Tamarac Community Farmers Market and take a long walk on the east end of the Greenway. Dusty loves all the smells coming out of the farmers market -- especially the distinctive aroma coming out of the big barbecue smoker that is always there.

One thing Dusty doesn't like is small kids -- they're too aggressive and unpredictable for Dusty's taste. If she sees one walking in our direction, she'll pull away in the opposite direction as far and as fast as her 4-foot leash will allow. She wants no part of them. She loves meeting new adult friends and their dogs but wants nothing to do with anyone that appears to be between about 2 and 12 years old.

We did enjoy a quick stroll through the farmers market. The vendors were out in force, but there weren't many customers walking around this morning, probably due to the holiday. We stopped and talked to a vendor with a spread of the biggest, most beautiful pastries you could hope to see. Being the weakling I am, I bent to the pastry guy's will and gave him $5 for a cherry Danish that was as big as my head.

I took my prize in one hand, and with Dusty's leash in the other, I led her over to a picnic bench on the Greenway to enjoy my mid-morning whatever-they-call-that-meal-between-breakfast-and-lunch. At that, a nice young boy of about 9 or 10 years old approached us and, stopping a few feet away, just stared at Dusty, who was backing away as far as she could.

"Your dog's shy," the boy said.

"Yes, she usually doesn't like strangers until after she's met them a few times," I fibbed, not wanting to hurt his feelings by telling him that she just doesn't like his size of people. With that, I set my half-eaten Danish down on the table and tried to pull Dusty toward me and comfort her as I told the boy -- who later told me his name was William -- to approach slowly and see if she'll greet him.

William did as I instructed, but Dusty was having no part of this scene. She got as far away as the leash would allow and watched in fear as I told William to walk slowly toward her and gently pet her head. He did just that, was being as nice and calming as he knew how. But you could see in her eyes that Dusty's fear was soaking her to the bone.

I let William keep petting her head for a few seconds while I waited to see if Dusty would relax and as William was telling me that his daddy was the guy operating the barbecue smoker on the other side of the market. I chatted with William a little longer while I finished my Danish but finally decided that the fear wasn't leaving my poor dog. So hoping to gracefully exit this situation, I told William that we were going to head over to the dog park and let Dusty run, thinking William was anchored to the farmers market so his dad could at least keep a long-range eye on him.

No such luck. William cheerfully said, "I'll go with you and open the gate." So William walked with me to my left while Dusty kept her safe distance to my right. Dusty seemed to be fine with that arrangement, so I relaxed as we walked a few feet in the direction of the dog park. But all of a sudden, William must have reached around me toward Dusty or something (it happened so fast, I'm not sure what happened), and Dusty jumped away fast, pulling the leash right out of my hand.

The last thing you ever want is to have a frightened greyhound getting free of your control in a wide-open space outdoors. But it happened at that moment. Fortunately, Dusty darted just a few feet to make sure she was out of William's reach and stopped. William, though, being helpful, made a move to run toward Dusty to try to help catch her. I grabbed William by the shoulders and said, "Stop right here," which he did. I then talked to Dusty, "It's OK, girl. It's OK." She didn't move, I was able to walk a few steps and retrieve her leash, and all was OK again within a couple of seconds. I looked up and a 30ish couple was walking past who saw the whole incident. He just smiled and said, "Nice catch."

And then William happily started accompanying us again toward the dog park. "William," I said, "I'm going to walk over here to my car to get Dusty's ball." I walked to the car, opened the hatchback and Dusty jumped right in, as she always does without hesitation when the hatchback flips up. "William," I said, "looks like Dusty wants to go home. So maybe we'll just call it a day." William was fine with that, walked to my car door with me, shook my hand, said, "Maybe I'll see you here next Sunday," and waved to us as we drove away.

Great young guy. But I do believe Dusty was just as happy to be driving away from this terror and being on our way.

That's how we ended up a few miles west on Southgate Boulevard at Tephford, on the opposite end of the Greenway, having a nice long walk along the canal, saying hello to passing bicyclists and joggers and stopping to look at the owls for a few seconds guarding their nests with terror or curiosity or indifference or whatever it is those owl eyes say to people and dogs like us.


  1. Poor Dusty! Poor William. I can't blame her, though. Kids can be terrifying with all that energy they sometimes put out there in the world.


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