Dogs are our link to paradise.  On a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring — it was peace.”    Milan Kunder

I’m just back from walking our half-mile loop, an upward climb on our long gravel road driveway.  By my side, at least part of the way, was my wonder dog Violet.  This black lab, every other dog that has blessed my life, lives for the outdoors.  Though we live in the woods and are outside a lot, Violet seeks movement…and so off we go on our next adventure.

I believe that dogs may be our best link to nature.  Though I’ve seen a cartoon showing someone walking one’s dog on a treadmill, luckily, thankfully, time with dogs means one must go outside.  Yes, dog walking is a good exercise, a nice gift to our pet, a great way to meet new and old friends, but most important, even in the city or suburbs, our jaunts include experiencing sunrises, feeling the wind, and stopping even for a moment to smell a rose dangling close to a sidewalk.

Dogs are certainly the Land and Community Steward’s best friend and besides being a great companion, we have started to put “Conservation Dogs” to work. An unusual team of researchers has been at work in New Mexico helping protect a rare salamander found nowhere else in the world.

These researchers are the four-legged variety—rescue dogs trained to sniff out wildlife and help conservation planners and land managers collect valuable data about wildlife populations.

These Conservation Canines—all rescued shelter dogs—are working with the Nature Conservancy to map salamander distribution in the Jemez Mountains and improve our understanding of how to manage forests in the face of a changing climate.

Dogs from the program have worked on projects searching for spotted owls in the Pacific Northwest, jaguars and wolves in Brazil, and even orcas in the Pacific Ocean.

IMG_2382Our wonderful neighbors have placed a purple bench at the top of the hill and after the walk, it is a perfect spot to stop, rest and take in the sublime Cascade Mountain views.  I am not sitting long before Violet magically appears and jumps up to join me.  I’m guessing she is taking in the beauty as well ~