Walking Styxx: Halfway There
November 06, 2014 • 10 Comments
Here begins a new project involving a dog, his doting father and their month of walks.
Styxx, shortened from his original name Firestyxx, is a greyhound. Or, more correctly he is a lurcher, the less romantic name for a greyhound mixed with a little bit of some other breed and used to race on “unofficial” dog tracks in the rural backwaters of states such as Ohio and Michigan. He has an unknown past and his age is pure guesswork (likely eight). But Styxx is every bit a greyhound, 80 pounds of muscle bound into a graceful Art Deco form.
My role as father to Styxx was accidental. The mother, my wife Gail, became enamored with greyhounds in mid-2013, the result of writing an article for the local community newspaper on Winnipeg’s greyhound rescue organization, Hi-Speed Hounds. That interest begat her need to adopt one. And along came Styxx into Gail’s life and ultimately into mine. For Styxx, it was the end of a long journey from his home in Ohio, where his owner surrendered him to a local kill shelter, to a sympathetic vet, to a series of underground railway-style road trips to Winnipeg, to foster parents and finally to us. That was December 2013, one of the coldest of our cold winters and not an ideal time to introduce Styxx to the wonderful walking opportunities of his new home.
It’s now summer 2014 and Gail and I are out with Styxx on our daily long walks, criss-crossing our treed neighbourhood, heading out to distant sites, looking for varied sensory experiences for our dog, searching out hills to climb, rivers to cross, prairie to sniff. All this starting from the front door of our house. And it occurs to me that I am exploring my surroundings in a new and fresh way that comes from the need to walk a big dog.
So I invent a project. I will take Styxx on a month of walks, recording our mutual findings as photographs and as maps. I devise a basic set of rules that I hope will create an interesting document:
Our walks started on July 11 and ended on August 15, 2014. Aside from one out-of-town day the thirty walks were on consecutive days. In keeping with the spontaneous nature of the project, a low-fi camera was used, the iPhone 5. A number of pictures were taken on each trip, each with Styxx front-and-centre at locations that seemed to define the walk. The maps, or tracks, were collected using the MotionX-GPS app on the iPhone.
The project necessarily stalled while Gail and I walked the Prague-Vienna Greenway in September and it is only now that I am starting to assemble the maps and process the photos. As of this post, I have prepared 15 of the thirty tracks as separate documents and assembled a merged map showing all the tracks. Which is an exciting process. I am starting to see a form developing, outlining our walking environment as a personalized road map. Streets are not shown or labelled but can be inferred. The track-free swath across the centre of the map outlines the path of the Assiniboine River. The tight lattice of nearby walks is starting to define the residential scale of our Wolseley neighbourhood. Thick, overlapping tracks radiate out from home and thin into delicate traces as the range of route options increase, like flower petals growing out from a stem. It is starting to look like the graphic artwork I had hoped for, one that is totally dependent on the random choices made by Styxx and me over the course of a month.
Just as each walk has a unique visual shape as defined by its path, so too are the photographs adding a unique but complementary identity to the walks. I haven’t finalized a means of presenting the project - maybe a book, maybe prints, maybe both - but the goal is to portray each day’s walk with one photograph and its mapped track, concluding with a map showing the month’s tracks as one piece of art.
This is a project in the making. Stay tuned for future Walking Styxx posts!
Dr. Karen M. Michalski(non-registered)
It is so nice to see Styxx enjoying such an exciting new life! I am so glad I could be a part of his journey to you. What a huge improvement in his living situation! :)
Beautiful work, David. It's a wonderful story and a fascinating way to discover and document the city.
Sheena Meagher, artist, has painted portraits of her lurcher in Ireland.
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