I am always looking for “off the beaten path” places to take my five dogs, and me. These places are getting harder to find with all the construction and development taking place in our rural communities. I love natural undeveloped areas, seemingly undiscovered by man, where my dogs can run freely and I can enjoy the peaceful serenity of walking across huge grassy fields scattered with pockets of beautiful age-old Pine trees. There are hundreds of bodies of water and fields scattered throughout the Central Florida counties, most just a few hundred feet beyond the barb-wired fences seen from our roadways. I look for these fields.
Sunday morning is my favorite time to go on adventures. That’s when office parks are closed and people are engaged in activities outside of the workplace. Rarely do I encounter anyone in these shaded, landscaped areas that surround office parks, malls, and university campuses. There are also many open areas alongside our interstate highways safely hundreds of yards from the road. Sometimes there are retention ponds, good for doggie swimming. You can find acres of grassy space in newly developing subdivisions where the streets and lot partitioning have been completed, but only a few homes built. I always park the furthest distance away from any occupied homes, construction areas, and busy roadways. Many places unseen and silent, lie in wait, surrounded by barb-wired fencing, No Swimming or No Fishing signs. Man-made retention ponds and natural tributaries alike, trickle and run to meet streams, creeks, springs, lakes, and rivers. Numerous species of birds, fish, trees and plants worthy of a pictography await me and my Nikon. One of my favorite places is located about 400 yards off South John Young Parkway. I’ve seen countless birds including hawks, falcons and twice, an American Bald Eagle, as well as deer and alligators.
What about you? Are you and your dog ready for an adventure? Here’s a short checklist to get you started. Always use common sense; if it doesn’t look safe, it probably isn’t.
- Your dog MUST recall (return to you when called).
- Your dog should obey the Sit, Down, and Stay commands off leash.
- As a general rule your dog’s immunizations should be up-to-date, and he should be on a reliable flea and tick killer/repellant, preferably one which repels and/or kills mosquitoes, ear mites and flies too. Most dogs should also be on a heartworm preventive medication (check with your veterinarian).
- You MUST have sufficient water for you and your dog when off on an adventure. A gallon of water and a small plastic bowl are both lightweight and easy to carry within a medium sized back-pack.
- You MUST practice safety and caution. Always let someone know where you are going. Be aware of your surroundings and your dog’s activities at all times.
- Bring a leash for each dog – just in case.
- Bring a fully charged cell phone.
- On hot sunny days, stop and rest for a minute or two in shade every half mile or so. Your dog will most likely do this himself with no prompting from you. Offer a small quantity of water at every stop.
- Most importantly – leave the area as clean and litter-free as you found it. Remember; leave nothing behind but your footsteps.
- Bring your camera/video cam because you never know what you may see.