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A Trip to the Vet, a Hike in the Woods

Little Ann hikes around Bennett's Pond in Ridgefield and muses about her brother's sickness.

Before, Ben would bring a water bottle and he would take me and my brother Old Dan on such long hikes, that Old Dan and I would end up napping our afternoon away. Now, Ben stops for coffee and we all stroll, leisurely, through the meadow at in . This morning I get the feeling we are going somewhere else. I have a feeling we are going to Ridgefield to see the vet. 

Being a dog my thumbs aren’t good for much, and my mouth doesn’t allow me to form words, but I know things. I know my brother had something bad growing inside his chest. I knew that it was pushing on his stomach and made him not want to eat and I knew that this growth would soon begin to push against his lungs. 

The routine was always the same. Ben opens the car door and I climb in, jump over the seat and sit in the back. He then helps Old Dan into the car. Old Dan always rides shotgun and Ben always drives. 

We arrive, leash up, and walk into the vet’s office together. The veterinarian was a caring old soul with warm, gentle hands. They talked about the tests that my brother would have today, and what they expected to learn. I saw Ben squeeze Old Dan’s leash tightly in his hand. We left my bother there; Ben and I went back to the car. 

Ben said we were going for a hike at Bennett’s Pond in Ridgefield. It was a place I had been many times, and I know it’s one of Ben’s favorite open spaces. Bennett’s Pond encompasses 440 acres. It is contiguous to Pine Mountain that has 368 acres of open space and also Hemlock Hills which has 421 acres of open space. Combined, that makes 1,229 acres to explore. Considering 640 acres make a square mile, that’s almost two square miles of open space. It is wonderful and easy to understand why this land has been preserved so future generations can come here and enjoy it the way we are today. 

We drove north on Route 7, just into Danbury before we turned left on Bennett’s Farm Road. We went up the hill and parked in the lot off on the right hand side were it is marked Bennett’s Pond. It was a blue bird day, but the wind was stiff and blew cold. Ben put on his jacket and after hesitating a moment, returned to the car and pulled on his hat. In his hand I saw a full bottle of water. 

Ben told me that almost a hundred years ago Col. Luis Conley and his wife built the Outpost Farm on this land. The farm served as a nursery, and in 1933 provided a 60 foot Norwegian spruce tree to Rockefeller Center. In 1939, they received a contract to provide mature trees to Flushing Meadows for the World’s Fair. 

I ran around where the farm once stood. The shrubs and trees there are wildly overgrown. I look around and imagine people from long ago looking out at the same valley, and maybe even throwing a ball for a dog like me.   

Halloween had just passed, the leaves were turning, and the trail was muddy from the melting early snow. Ben took long strides and his gait was quick...sometimes his shoes slipped in the mud. The mud splashed on my legs and belly. It felt cold but good. 

Once at the pond, we turned left and walked west along the pond’s edge, past a beaver den and over a bridge. At the fork we took the higher trial and left the valley floor to our right. The trail wandered through the woods and past what seems to be an old foundation. The trail then climbed up the shoulder of Pine Mountain. The last push to the top felt like I was climbing a staircase. 

Standing there on top of Pine Mountain at almost 1,000 feet (it’s actually 970 ft.) above sea level I gaze out at one of the best lookouts in the area. I look southeast, down the Norwalk and Saugatuck valleys and see Long Island and the Sound. My eye scans to the right, looking more due south now and see the back side of Seth Low Mountain and the church steeples of Ridgefield. A little more to the right, I see the water tower that sits on Peaceable Ridge. To the southwest, I see Barrack Hill. Looking almost due west, I see, just barely, Bear Mountain on the other side of the Hudson River about 40 miles away. 

We were on one of the southernmost knobs of the Berkshire Mountains. During the Revolutionary War, fires were lit on this mountain top to relay signals from New York City to West Point, which is at the base of Bear Mountain. I knew many had been here before me, and that many more would follow. 

Ben took his jacket off, sat on a rock, and stared out at the valley. After a long time, he stood up and put his jacket back on. He zipped it up; I knew that it was time to go. 

We went back a different way than we had come. We walked east along the top of the ridge and past Charles Ives’ old fireplace. Then we went down the steep valley and over a small stream. A little further on we came to the wooden bridge we had crossed before. 

Ben pulls out his water bottle; I walk past the bridge down to the creek. I stood at the water’s edge and look at it flowing before me. I think about how all this water is made up of more drops of rain than there are blades of grass in a lawn or maybe experiences that create a lifetime. 

I walk into the water. I pick up my paw and put it down again. I feel the water push against my leg, then go around it. I pick up my paw and put it down for the second time. It seems no matter what I do, the water continues to flow. It’s on an unstoppable journey that will bring all these drops into Bennett’s Pond, across Route 7, under the old bridge, into the Sound, and eventually to the sea. It’s not a good thing or a bad thing, it just sort of is. It’s a force, nature’s journey, and there is no stopping it. I pick up my paw and put it back down again in the water. It makes no difference. I put my snout near the water, feel cool, moist air on my nose and drink from the creek. I feel the water on my dry mouth. It makes me feel good inside.   

Just then a big, dark bird flew over us. I retreated from the creek, and Ben quietly put his water bottle away. The bird circled, then perched on a dead tree on the far side of the pond. Seeing that bird watch us as we hiked back along the pond made me think. I thought about the joy I felt in hiking with Ben. I thought about sniffing out a dead mouse in the leaves. I thought about seeing the steam rise off Ben’s head and the taste of the water in the creek. For a while it was bliss. But seeing that bird watch us somehow reminded me of why we were here in Ridgefield and why Ben’s face seemed to be made of stone. I’m just a dog, but it was as if that bird knew what would be in store for us. 

Before long our backs were to the pond, and we faced the parking lot. It took us about an hour to hike up there and 45 minutes to get back. I felt good, but tired. It was time to go get Old Dan and talk to the vet and have the vet tell Ben what I already knew. 

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