Walking the River with Ruby - by Dr Fiona Boxall
I’m lucky to live close enough to Ginninderra Creek to walk there most days. Before the arrival of my little red dog Ruby, a jaunt around the closest five kilometre loop took about 40 minutes. These days it takes more like an hour, but it is definitely my favourite hour of the day.
Ruby and I are both fascinated by the things we see, and in Ruby’s case, smell, along the way. For me there are interesting birds and insects, plants in flower, kangaroos and the never-ending seasonal changes to be observed. For Ruby there are birds and insects to be chased (she is always on a lead so that exercise doesn’t get her very far) plants to be sniffed and chewed, kangaroos to be startled by and sometimes puddles to be paddled in. Then there is always the bonus of meeting other dogs and family groups, especially if they include children, because Ruby loves them and they love her.
Walking the river with Ruby has been an essential means for me to manage my anxiety over the state of the environment and the social dislocation we are all experiencing. She gets me out into the open and she slows me down. She reminds me there are so many good things in the world and each day is to be treasured. Every day is her best day ever and together we have discovered some wonderful things. One day Ruby discovered a beautifully marked owl feather which I gleefully removed from her jaws to place in my feather collection. I have always wanted an owl feather. Ruby was thoroughly disappointed in me but I remain unrepentant.
Another morning, we saw a wood duck standing in a tree. Ruby thought it looked very odd but it led to many hours of happy research on my part learning about these lovely birds. We are both looking forward to watching them raise another family this spring.
One early morning we saw two kangaroos in a part of the reserve we had never seen them in before. Ruby pretended she couldn’t see them, but I know she did. It started me pondering where they had they crossed the creek. I had seen them crossing via the bridge before but that was a fair distance away. Did they swim or paddle/hop across? It seemed likely I supposed. Then, as we rounded another bend, another roo bounced across the path. He was wet up to his armpits, so question answered.
Then there are the little bird nests festooning the callistemons and the clouds of silver eyes and thorn bills we see skittering around. One day we watched a pair of fairy wrens enjoying a romantic interlude in a sapling, and just this morning I saw a scrub wren, not rare, but the first I had seen here. The little pied cormorant that likes to sun itself on the rock near the bridge wasn’t in residence but the last few days I have seen what looks like a Eurasian coot paddling around, once again a bird I have never seen there before.
With all the rain recently, the river has flooded, leaving behind masses of debris, but more interestingly, deep puddles or waterholes. Ruby was keen to investigate and quite taken aback when she heard a frog croaking near her nose. It wasn’t until then that I noticed that there were lots of frogs singing around us. Then there was the lady with four small dachshunds who decided it was a good idea to let them off their leads so they could disturb the mob of kangaroos enjoying a quiet patch of sun. Ruby was most disapproving.
Taking the time to walk one small dog gives me a reason to visit a place I am coming to know well. It always reveals something new and provides food for thought that often ends in a journal scribble. Over the last 12 months we have watched the creek dry to a trickle, turn black from the bushfire smoke then flood and break its banks after repeated downfalls. It provides a gauge of what is happening in the world around us and I return recharged and brimming with ideas and, often, a more positive slant on the day. And best of all, Ruby returns happy and ready to take a nap.