Trails By Kathy

Avon Lake’s Best-kept Secret

A retired lady named Kathy traveled from Avon Lake, Ohio halfway across the country to save a dog from Texas that was scheduled to be destroyed. When she met up with an activist in a rest area somewhere in between, what she saw was the utmost neglect. The grown dog was depressed, riddled with fleas, mites, you name it. She called her veterinarian after hours en route home. This wasn’t the first such cross-country rescue for Kathy. So, the vet said she’ll meet her. It took two days to clean the pooch, and Kathy’s car, for the dog’s short trip to his forever home – Kathy’s place.

She named him, not knowing there was a Pink Floyd connection.

Side note: Kathy, before retirement, had her reservation messed up at a hotel in Cleveland during a real estate conference. The hotel had an entire floor off limits with a private key for the legendary band Pink Floyd. The band and hotel allowed Kathy to stay in a room on that floor. She would later say that she never met this man named Pink Floyd, but she enjoyed her morning chats with “a really nice fella named David.”

Kathy had many stories from her trailblazing past: kicked out of Catholic school for pranks in the 1950s, apron-to-punch card mother in the 1970s, a victim of sexism in the workplace, and then all-star realtor and manager. She was also a popular catechism teacher for high school students, but her teaching style to connect with them made the head nun have to talk to her from time to time. But through all her trailblazing, she was about to embark on the real thing.

When she drove her new dog to a nearby park in Avon Lake, she was excited to walk the dog trail someone had told her about. When the spry Kathy in her late 70s completed the walk, neither she nor her dog was satisfied, so they walked it again.

Kathy thought to herself, this will not do.

She later returned with her dog and yard tools. And went to work. She began clearing a new trail. But it ran into a middle-aged man’s secret binge drinking post. When Kathy completed her trail extension and marked it with a wooden homemade sign that read, “Trail by Kathy,” and an orange paw print to mark the way, a bit of a war broke out between her and the beer can litterer. He would leave his empties piled up at her marker and break the sign into pieces.

He didn’t know whom he was dealing with.

Kathy rebuilt what was destroyed and added to her quest to make more trails. More wood signs marked each trail: Pooch Path, Canine Crossing, Bow Wow Bend, Doggy Detour, etc. So, this cycle of trails by Kathy being met with piles of beer cans and some unmentionable protest by the beer guy went on for over a year. But in that time, Kathy would hear firsthand from many dog walkers that they loved whoever this “Kathy” was for making trails they loved to walk with their best friends. Within the next year, Kathy went from being anonymous to being known and loved as she was found adding a new loop trail here or a connection there.

One day, she looked across a ravine and thought, we need a bridge here. So, she had the lumber company deliver a load of precut wood to her measurements at the park’s parking lot. At 76 years old and with osteoporosis, she hauled 16-foot timbers to the ravine which is no short jaunt. And after watching a YouTube video, she built a bridge to start a new trail on the other side. She tumbled into the ravine once, knocking herself unconscious. Her dog guarded her until she opened her eyes. She called her grown kids in her fun, uplifting humor to say she almost died. After that, her daughter added a tracker to her phone as a precaution since she was so outgoing and often threw caution to the wind.

Side note: She started a senior biking club a couple of years earlier. At one time or another, each of the seven members ended up in the hospital after taking spills on the pavement.

One of her appreciative dog-walking friends – she has made dozens of them by now – said he was walking Kathy’s outer trail when something shocking caught his attention, and his head snapped up with jaw wide open. He blurted out, “She built a #$&%! BRIDGE!”

When Kathy took her dog Koda-Maria for a walk to the trailhead she had started on the other side of the bridge, she came upon the head city park engineer, a park worker, and another dog walker.

As she neared, she overheard the dog-walker exclaim, “Oh Kathy won’t like this. She won’t like this at all.”

When Kathy joined the conversation, the park people discovered that she was THE Kathy. But to Kathy’s surprise, they said they were very impressed with her sturdy well-constructed bridge. But they are going to bring a backhoe in to create a land bridge wide enough for a dog and person to walk side-by-side. And that they’d stack her wood if she wanted it.

Kathy said to the engineer, “This is a good thing because I was thinking in just a few years, I’ll be over 80 years old, and I may not be able to redo the bridge once it starts to decay.”

When Kathy came back another day to check on the progress, she noticed that her new trail work on the far side was blocked by a pile of dirt. She asked the engineer if it could be cleared. And when she returned the next day, she was amazed at the nice job they did to make her trailhead even nicer.

But what really caught the trailblazing Kathy off guard was an official street sign that marked the spot, “Kathy’s Bridge.”

This tribute melted her heart. She and the engineer and other park workers have become very friendly. She is charmed that they ask her opinion about things when they catch each other out on the trails.

Today, word of the “Trails by Kathy” is spreading. Delighted dog walkers have made it a local thing to post photos of them and their pooch at the sign, “Kathy’s Bridge.”

I wanted to publish this story much earlier but waited for other media to do it first. You see, Kathy is my beloved mom. And she lives to quietly make the world a better place, even if she creates a bit of “good trouble” along the way.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun

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