Pinetree Trail

The temperature had reached -25 for a few days, with the windchill. It was freaking cold and the dog was driving her crazy. Sammy knew she should take the dog out for a walk since the weather had warmed up a tad.  The dog was going squirrelly. She hadn’t gone out for a walk for a few days. The dog wanted to go for a walk but Sammy didn’t.

It was too damn cold to walk about. Sammy had a fenced in yard so the dog still got to run around.  So on with the fuzzy mitts, fur-lined boots, floppy hat, scarf tucked up under the neck, and her light weight, down filled coat.

Sammy opened her back door and the wind bit angrily at her cheeks. As she blinked, her eyelids watered and froze in seconds.

It was a bad sign. She should have stayed indoors but knew she had to brave the elements.

Sammy opened the car door and the big huge furry dog jumped eagerly atop the blanket in the back seat of the car. Sammy stepped into the front seat. The leather seat sent goosebumps up her spine from the cold. The key cranked and turned the engine over. Sammy turned the defrost on high and tried to thaw her eyelids.

Sammy braved the outdoors again. The trunk opened with a heave and she pulled out the scraper brush. Scrape, scrape, scrape. Her arms firmly held the scraper and pushed heavily against the window to take the inch thick layer off her windscreen. The outside air nipped at any visible skin. After a few minutes, she managed to scrape all the ice away and tucked herself back in the warmed up car.

Her Bernese Lucy,  with all her layers of fur, didn’t mind the weather one bit. She would lie in the snow bank and roll around. She was not a summer dog at all.

Sammy drove down the street to the park. Not a car to be seen. No one else was crazy enough to go out today. She walked this path nearly every day; rain or shine. It was an early Sunday morning, so if the weather didn’t put people off, it was certainly the “I think I’d like to lie in for a bit.”

The snow crackled under foot. In places it went half way up her knee-high boots. She trudged through the snow drifts, as did Lucy. Lucy’s large paws thud with each step. Her nose followed trying to identify each scent. They walked through the baseball diamond and up the escarpment. The tree-lined escarpment caught some of the snow. It was a lot easier to walk through. The dog sniffed randomly from one scent to the next. Lucy darted up the hill. Sammy hung from tree to tree to follow behind her furry friend.  Lucy’s tail wagged and she barked excitedly to hurry Sammy along.

Sammy turned to look behind her. She could see the vast field and her car in the distance. She had climbed up nearly to the top. Coming down wasn’t going to be easy.

“Come on Lucy. Lucy, come!” Sammy yelled.

Sammy did not want to venture any further. The ground was slick. She clung to each tree and inched her way back down the steep hill.

Lucy turned to follow. Her dog loved the woodsy terrain – her tail a wagging and off she went down the hill.

Sammy’s heart raced as she grasped each tree. She could feel each beat as it contracted against her rib cage. Her left foot slipped and she steadied herself as her legs split apart. “Ouch!” Her inner thighs didn’t like the stretch as her legs pulled away from each other.

Lucy’s head cocked to one side as her ears perked up to listen for a command.

Sammy painfully pulled her legs together. Sammy’s arms wrapped tightly around the tree trunk. She took a deep breath and lunged for the next tree branch; steadied herself and planned her next foot placement. She slid to the next tree branch as Lucy plodded down the hill a little further.

Lucy turned to look for approval to go further down the slick snow covered hill.

The snow wet the leaves that scattered across the forested floor. The freezing rain and snow blanketed the leaves so it was hard to tell if the next step would be that of ice or wet snow.

Sammy reached for the next branch. It wasn’t a thick branch but it would be the closest thing that she might be able to grasp onto. Sammy’s gloves reached for it and the branch broke as she grabbed onto it. Her feet slid from underneath her as she desperately tried to grab onto anything that would stop her fall. She somersaulted and turned as her arm rolled underneath her. Sammy heard the crack of her wrist and a pop of her shoulder as she stopped hard against a 3 foot around Pine tree.

Lucy ran to Sammy when her screams were heard. She licked and looked for a sign that her mum was OK.

“I’m Ok. It’s OK, Lucy. I’m OK,” she said weakly.

Sammy was wedged against the pine and a huge boulder. She didn’t notice it beforehand because it was just off the pathway up the hill. The boulder was imbedded in the incline of the escarpment,  covered in moss and snow-covered leaves.

Sammy tried to steady herself to a sitting position. She held her shoulder tight against her ribcage. She tried to move it and the pain seared through her shoulder joint. She likely dislocated it. Sammy could see the bump and instant swelling at the base of her wrist, likely broken, maybe sprained. The bluish tinge indicated that she was not going to be happy. She rested her hand in a heap of snow. She recalled in first aid training that “ice was your friend.”

Lucy sat beside Sammy and looked for reassurance from Sammy that all was OK.

She took her scarf and tied her arm tightly in a L shape against her chest; using her other hand and her teeth. She wouldn’t have far to walk now as she tumbled quite a bit down the hill-side. Her cell phone was in the car as she didn’t want it to get broken. That was not helpful now. Only a ten minute walk; she could do it.

She decided it was best to keep still for a few more minutes until she was more steady. Any further tumbles and she would cause serious damage to her shoulder. She looked across the field and not a soul stirred.  Her arm was stable and she wasn’t dizzy. She had to breath deeply and calm herself so her body wouldn’t sense danger.

Lucy’s nose lifted high and sniffed out a scent. The dog came around to the front of boulder and frantically started digging.

“What you smell girl? Go get it!” Sammy said.

The dog dug fast and her nose would come up full of dirt, snow and rotted leaves. Lucy looked up at Sammy and barked. She looked at the hole and barked. She dug a bit more. Sammy inched down on her bum, around the boulder, to see what Lucy was barking at.

“Maybe she found an old ball or a dead squirrel. Who knew? Lucy was a digger all right. She could sniff out a bone she dug into the ground the summer before,” Sammy laughed to herself.

“What did you find Lucy? What is it Lucy?”

Sammy stopped before the dog. Arm tightly against her chest. The dog looked up at her with fresh dirt covering her nose. Then she looked and sniffed at the hole. Sammy leaned in a little closer and used her other hand to brush away the dirt of the huge long hole Lucy had unearthed. A pile of freshly dug dirt blanketed the snow-covered forest.

Sammy jumped back and let out a lot screech.

Her heart pounded with adrenaline that pumped feverishly though her veins. She felt no pain as endorphins pulsed through her body. She moved in closer again. Lucy’s tail wagged proudly after unearthing something. She sat up tall with tongue panting. Sammy scratched her head to reward her.

“Good girl, good girl Lucy!” Sammy sat there with mouth agape.

She leaned in again to look at what was before her. She saw the blueish white hue of an unearthed hand. Sammy reached forward to brush the dirt away. She sat up on her knees and used her one hand to brush away more dirt. She moved further along to brush away the dirt. There she uncovered the dirt covered face of a young girl with long hair. The cold snow likely kept the composure of the girls body as it didn’t show immediate signs of decomposition.

“Poor girl. Oh my God. Poor girl,” Sammy cried and saw brown stains that she assumed was blood.

“Come on girl. Lucy come!” Sammy sniffed.

Sammy inched herself down the rest of the hill on her bum. They got to the bottom of the hill and Sammy walked quickly. They got to the car.

“Up Lucy!” and Lucy jumped up happily to the back seat of the car.

Sammy turned on the car and pulled off her gloves. She picked up her phone and dialled for emergency.

“State your emergency?” said the operator.

“I’m at the Pinetree park on Fourth Street in Walkersville.  Hurry please! I was walking my dog up the escarpment and fell down the hill and I think I broke my wrist and hurt my shoulder and I rolled down the hill and then my dog started digging and she was barking and made a big hole and she kept digging and…” Sammy said without breath as her heart pounded through her shirt.

“Slow down. Can I get your name please?” the operator asked.

Sammy went through her story again more slowly. The police and the paramedics came.

Sammy woke up in the hospital. She tried to piece the event together. Sammy remembered lights and a police woman taking her keys to bring Lucy back to her house – lots of people talking – so many questions – who to call – who should look after Lucy – who could meet her at the hospital.  She blacked out a few times and saw lights and people talking to her – someone snapping her shoulder in place – nurse wrapping her broken wrist. She must’ve been in shock.

It was all one long blur.

A few days later,  a couple of police officers came to her house to thank her for calling them.   They had dug up the remains of a ten-year old girl who had gone missing in the summer. She must have been wandering with her dog along the escarpment and likely fell down the hill.As she tumbled down the hill, she must’ve hit a rock pretty hard; likely the same boulder as Sammy had. If Sammy had not fell that day, the little girl’s body might not have been found.

It was surprising that she had not been found before. The leaves,  mud, and snow covered her body. No one thought to look a mile away at the escarpment. The family assumed the little girl walked to the lake where she always walked their dog.  The family worried when the dog came home and the little girl didn’t. There was a ground search for months but there was no leads so the investigation was tabled.

Sammy felt bad that the little girl didn’t make it like she did. However, she was glad that her family would be able to rest knowing what happened to their little girl.

A tear trickled down Sammy’s face. She was the lucky one who survived the Pinetree Trail.

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