Psychogeography of a dog village

Dalcash Dvinsky
The Bunny Years
Published in
5 min readJul 23, 2023

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Beechwalk Park is wonderful. Old trees and chest-high walls surrounding a large grass field, a really large field. Everything is predictable here, the movements, the dogs, the people. I can manoever around the distractions, can keep exactly the distance I want and can disappear quickly, if necessary. In the morning, walking through Bowling Green Place to Beechwalk Park is almost a safe zone. The only risk here is that the two black labs eventually figure out how to jump their tiny fence, but since they had so many opportunities, I guess they just don’t have it.

Dog walking through the village means understanding angles, sightlines, distances, and perspectives. It means knowing routes, schedules, and habits. It also means to understand statistics — there is never a guarantee. Turn around a corner, and the large shaggy dog might be on the other side. The pitbull might come out of the house the moment we walk past. Nothing you can do. Take the hit and move on. It’s about reducing risks, instead of eliminating risk.

Roome Bay is nice, but technically more difficult than Beechwalk. It has options to escape, but it also lacks obscuration. Everything is visible. It’s like a theatre, a path up high, another one below, and the beach even further down. Every time you try to get away from the path, you are on an inclined plane, where the dog is much harder to control. Benches right at the path, too, where little dogs often sit and bark the moment you walk past. When the weather is nice, especially on weekends, and everybody wants to be at the sea, it’s a place to avoid. We often look at it from the top, glance over it, sniff at its corners, then move on.

Every day we walk through Denburn Woods, directly behind Beechwalk. It is just a narrow stretch of woodland, maybe two hundred steps on muddy paths, but for some reason it is an oasis of peace. There are now a few paths and positions to escape encounters. A stretch of grass, a stream, places to relax out of sight. The squirrels are irritating, but all they cause is some short-term havoc. Nothing too serious. It’s almost fun to walk through Denburn Woods. The only parts of the village that are more relaxing are the residential neighbourhoods without any dogs and with a high fraction of second homes: Pinkerton and sideroads. And, the top of the list, the Felkington triangle. Stupendously boring, and very very good.

And then the most obvious challenge: High Street, the stretch around the stores. I feel surprisingly relaxed here, mostly because everybody will control their dogs. No risk of off-leash encounters. Lots of little alleys to escape. Lots of cars to block the view. It’s almost like more distractions are good, because they drown out the problematic ones. Past that, we enter the husky zone between the fish shop and Shoregate. It is a place where my dog expects to see huskies, even though we only see them once a week or so. But for him, they are always there. All systems on alert. Ears and eyes open. Marking at every opportunity, to let them know. I was here, boys.

The most harrowing part of Crail is, unfortunately, unavoidable: Westgate, part of the main road through the village, between Shoregate and Temple Crescent. It’s the place where the other two black labs live, the ones that are always off leash and out of control. It’s the place where dogs come from the harbour. It has narrow sidewalks, and everybody on the coastal path has to come through here. This and Kirkmay are the only two places in the world where my dog jumps after cars. I have checkpoints along these hundred metres, where we stop briefly, look at each other, and breathe. But only westwards, coming from the husky zone. For some reason, it’s perfectly easy coming from the east, walking from home.

Speaking of Kirkmay: I have talked earlier about the difficulties in navigating Kirkmay Street. The dark triangle at Kirkmay is still a concern, but it is now outweighed by the living quarters of a pitbull on the far end, beyond the bowling club. If we go left here, we end up in one of the most terrifying situations the village has to offer, a corner surrounded by walls, directly behind the school, and just one narrow hole to escape. This is where the dog was attacked by the bull dog. This is where the pitbull pees in the morning. This is a high alert zone.

The hole in the wall behind the school, the pitbull corner, is one of a dozen important thresholds in the village. Thresholds can be planned for, to some extent, and they can be controlled, ideally by a second person walking ahead, a scout operation. Thresholds are all over town and strategically important. They are never perfectly safe, but when approached slowly, with a wide margin, they are managable. The corner at Shoregate. The gate at Denburn Woods. The gaps in the walls. The entry to Roome Bay from the east. And the three bends at Castle Walk, one after the other. Castle Walk has wonderful seaviews, but it is also a point of contention and therefore best avoided. Right next to it, my favourite threshold, Kingsmill. Five paths meet each other, decent views to all sides, and lots of options to disappear. This is where I sat years ago, without a dog, and decided to move to this place.

I love my small town. It sits at the edge of the world, and is still in the middle of it. It has everything I need. I don’t really want to leave it. It has wonderful places and walks. But I also never imagined walking in it, every day, like I’m on a stealth mission in occupied territory. Like at any moment this life can be ruptured, by a pissed off dog, a broken carabiner, or a torn tendon. I never imagined this much village awareness, this much tension and conflict. But this is where we are now. It’s the place where all the memories and the experiences and the territorial instincts are at home, good and bad.

Harbour Beach, by the way, is to be avoided entirely. It’s not safe there.

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