On one of those temperate Texas evenings in mid-January, I took Izzy for a walk along the gravel path behind our apartment complex. It was a Good Walk Day; Izzy trotted calmly by my side, every now and then turning her face to mine with one of those sweet dog smiles, and to top it off, a brilliant sunset bathed the Trinity River in a watercolor blend of oranges and pinks. We rounded a bend, and I noticed dark silhouettes dotting the water off in the distance. Ducks. Hundreds of them.
Now, it’s pretty common to see small groups of ducks floating together on the Trinity, but I’d never seen anything like this. Gathered thickly together in an alcove, it looked as if they were dancing on the water as they glided amongst each other, beating their wings and sticking their heads high in the air. Instead of quacking, they whistled softly, a sound I never thought I’d hear from a swarm of ducks; combined with the woosh of the rushing river, it was beautiful music. Intermittently, newly paired ducks took flight into the blazing sunset, the grand finale in a magnificent show.
Wow. Izzy and I stopped, human and animal, for several minutes just watching the spectacle: Me, in awe of a moment so worthy of National Geographic or an E. B. White novel (he had written a famous book about water fowl, after all), and Izzy, patiently waiting for one of those ducks to waddle up the bank into her mouth.
It’s a few months later, and Spring has arrived in North Texas. White blossoms burst like popcorn on the Bradford Pears, mosquitoes spawn in thick clouds above sidewalks everywhere, tulips and daffodils dab the landscape in pops of color, and I expect that any day now, the Trinity River will be dotted with the product of that January evening: ducklings (true, they will be mutant ducklings—it is the Trinity, after all—but ducklings nonetheless). And to think—Izzy and I witnessed the very ceremony in which many of them were created. I would have missed it had I not needed to walk Izzy, a fact that makes the nature lover in me that much more grateful to have a dog.
Witnessing a duck mating ceremony at sunset might not seem like a big deal to you, but I can assure you that my words don't do the beauty and mystery of it justice. Perhaps the best part of the whole event is that for those five minutes, I forgot about everything--stress at work, what to make for dinner, phone calls I needed to make. I just couldn't take my eyes off of what was happening on that water. It just goes to show, not only are those daily walks good for your dog and your own body, but they’re good for your soul, too.