Coordinates: Off the Leash

Even if Libby and I have different ideas of what a “walk” entails, we both love our visits to Manor Park, a local woodsy, rocky, seaside paradise. When I tell Libby, my five-year-old black lab puppy, that we’re going on a walk, her nose lifts up and her tail wags ferociously.

In high school, reaching Manor Park meant that I had completed another two miles of my run. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten my Manor Park fix from long walks with Libby. Like me, Libby likes to climb on the rocks, but I can’t let her do it too much because if she goes in the water I’m not strong enough to pull her back out. I like to stop and look out at the view, sometimes of Long Island and sometimes of the other houses across the shoreline. Libby likes to stop and catch her breath. When I’m home from college, our lives are remarkably similar. Libby and I both spend most of the day lying around on the couch—though neither of us should.

Sometimes Libby wants to play in the front or backyard, but not when it’s raining because rain scares her. She never seems to lose the thrill of having her electric collar removed, though her enthusiasm is for the opportunity to sniff trees for the scent of other dogs rather than to actually exercise.

When I was very young, it was the gazebos that would catch my eye. In middle school, I once went over to Manor Park to have a look at the waves during Hurricane Isabel. And in high school, the park became the finishing point of my run.

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of escape. It’s not that I ever felt the need to run away from what I had—what was there to flee? Suburbia? A loving family? I just always liked the idea of exploring new terrain. I would play Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird” while on the way to and from school and go on runs through the nearby nature center.

And I’ve continued to visit Manor Park with my dog to look out at the horizon, to enjoy impromptu playdates with other dogs, and to improve my arm strength by yanking Libby’s leash when she stops to sniff the ground for the hundredth time.

Libby and I see that there is a whole world out there for us to explore.And then we head back home because it looks like it’s going to rain, and we’re both getting hungry.

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