The Effects are as Good on You as They are on the Dog
This Blog Gets Happier in a Moment
But first, a couple of necessary sad notes. We received an urgent call this past weekend from a close friend who was about to lose her dog. After a long series of illnesses and related problems, it was time to let Hairy the Corgi go. Never an easy decision, even when it is the right thing at the right time, as this was, but there comes a time when what is best for the dog is to set them free from pain and problems.
We went with them to say goodbye to Hairy. We have been through this before and so appreciate when it is done as best it can be done. As painful a moment as this can be, we think it is important to be present, holding them as they leave us.
The veterinary practice did everything they could to make this as easy as possible for everyone, including Hairy. We were reminded of another nice touch for this moment we saw at another veterinary practice:
Memories and Current Life
This all, of course, brought back memories of losing our beloved Lizzie the Lab in 2020. For me, Lizzie was the ultimate dog – I still miss her every day.
She had a great run of just over 14 years, and we were lucky to have her as a part of our family. It was over 18 months before we could even think about adding a dog to our family once again, but life without a dog just felt unacceptable eventually. Happily, we found Bonnie the Border Collie, who has been with us since last December.
As you would expect, when we returned from our last visit with Hairy, we spent some extra close up time with Bonnie and I took her for a long walk. Which takes us to the focus of this post – finally.
Walking the Dog
I found that in the time between Lizzie and Bonnie, one of the things I missed the most was walking the dog. It was a more important part of daily life than I had realized. It got me to thinking: What is the big deal about walking a dog?
Upon reflection, I came to recognize this little daily thing is a wonderful mix of ritual, togetherness, exercise, nature – and more. So much value in so small a thing.
For starters, when I pick up the leash, my partner immediately perks up, gets a vigorous tail wag under way and heads for the door. Hard not to be in a good mood at such a reception from your walking partner.
OK, I admit that sometimes the joy can be less than overwhelming. If it is an early walk before dawn, that can be a bit more effort. If it is pouring down rain or snow, our pleasure is moderated (Bonnie always seems to notice I am the one who gets a raincoat or umbrella). But after 30 years as a soldier, I am philosophical about weather. So you get wet for a bit – you will dry out eventually, no worse for the wear.
But most days, this is a glorious little ritual we share at least a couple of times a day. I think we both enjoy it so much first and foremost because it is something we do together – a shared experience. Second, we get outdoors and that is always where we both prefer to be at any given time. Third, it is a modest bit of exercise, which we both can always use.
Good Things for the Dog
For the dog, it is a time of adventure and discovery, led by her nose. Who or what else has passed here? Do I need to leave a pee-mail calling card? Are there any worms out (dead or alive, frozen, sun baked, or whatever) or run-over tadpoles I could snack on? Shall I consider chasing after that rabbit/squirrel/ fox/turkey/coyote?
Occasionally we see a bear but wisely choose not to engage one of them. We do cross paths with other walkers and dogs, some of whom carry dog treats – Bonnie knows them by sight and ques right up for a treat when the opportunity arises.
Bonnie has about half a dozen favorite routes. Most of the time, I let her choose the route. This is her big thing for the day. She does not read, shares no phone calls, has given up her sex life, and watches tv only when a herd of something crosses the screen that might need herding by a border collie (as you can see here).
So the walk and meals are her big deals for the day – I think she should choose the route.
Good Things For the Human
For me, this is first rate head clearing time. I cannot tell you how many times a creative idea or a long pending problem solution has come to me when walking the dog, especially when we are walking in a forest. The combination of ritual, physical rhythm, and being outside in nature has wonderous effects on the body and the mind.
Watching the dog engage in her own, intense way with the environment is both pleasurable and educational. It reminds me that living in the moment has much to offer and it is helpful to remember that other creatures besides humans have intelligence, life force, and communications that we barely perceive.
I hope we get better at that communication thing as a species. Animals have much to teach us, if only we will pay attention.
Go Walk a Dog
I would write more, but it is time for Bonnie and me to go for a walk. Cats, fish, other critters are just fine, but you can’t beat walking a dog for pleasure. Go walk one. If you don’t have one, borrow one or offer to walk one when a friend is ill or needs some help. You and the dog both will be better for the experience.
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