There is a certain kind of peace that you experience while walking your dog. I never really thought about it before, but lately, I’ve been looking forward to the activity as much as he seems to.
Which is surprising, given that it’s been in the 20s and 30s outside most days. And I do hate the cold. And while I don’t jump around in anticipation of the activity, like he does, moving in a more glacial speed to prepare for the walk, I do get up, and prepare to take my pet out.
And there’s a ritual to the whole activity. You have to get up from where you’ve planted yourself for the last hour or so. You grab your jacket, your cell phone, your keys, put on your shoes, make sure you’ve got a couple of plastic poop bags with you, and the leash. All this on autopilot.
Then off we go into the cold, into the world. And we begin. My daily walks with my dog.
Which Road To Take
The first thought, in fact, the only real decision of any consequence I make on this trek, is which way to go! Do I turn right, towards the main road, or do I turn left, to walk down the line of homes of neighbors I do not know, or only barely recognize, and wave to from time to time? And this is important in a couple of ways, all of which may seem trivial, really, but nonetheless, consequential at the moment, for the overall experience of your journey with your pet.
If I turned towards the road, then that means walking along the sidewalk parallel to it. Which means traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian. No, the dog is not bothered by the vehicles zooming past. But I do. They distract me from my musings.
I told you. This walk was as much for him as it is for me.
I know it’s good for both of us. There are many benefits to walking with your dog. But often, you forget all that. Sometimes, a quiet walk, a time to ourselves, moments of reflection, bonding with my dog, all can be good. It can be a salve to the spirit, assaulted daily by the rigors and harshness of life in the modern world. Because despite being surrounded by the world, that walk you take with your pet is a solitary pursuit. A man and his dog. Just walking together.
And if it tires him out, well, then that’s good for everyone in the house. At least he’ll stay put for a few hours after we get back inside. Whatever health benefit it will have on him, well, he won’t know any of that. All he knows is that his human took him out for a stroll, despite the cold, despite the wind. And he’s happy.
Dogs, more than cats, I think, can show appreciation. I know, I have a cat, too. And I like him just as much. I just don’t know who owns who.
Walks Are A Gift For Dogs, And You
But he does love the outdoors. And I admit I enjoy seeing him explore the outside. He’s still in awe of everything he sees that he’s never really 100% behaved when we go out for our strolls. Oh, I do train him not to pull and strain while he’s being walked. And in fact, walks are opportunities for for further training! But the curiosity of youth still gets to him. And there’s only so much a bag of treats and the near constant barrage of admonishments and pleas for him to behave, can accomplish, when your dog is determined to act his age.
The main road does offer a straighter route. It gives me a better idea of distance. And despite the human, canine and vehicular traffic, it’s actually a less stressful choice for a couple of reasons.
The cars after a while, become part of the scene. Unless they try and run you and your dog over, you’re pretty safe from them. The people, well, either their dog people or they’re not. If they’re not, they normally just go on their way, perhaps with a cursory nod of acknowledgment. If they are dog people, well, chances are they’re also walking their dogs. And even if they do stop to talk, to say hi to your pet, the pull of their pets to get a move on will usually pry them from any conversation that may have started. Besides, the way Mochi acts around other dogs at this stage, I’m sure they will be eager to move on after a few minutes.
But it’s good to socialize. Your dog learns to act around other humans, and other dogs. It decreases his loneliness by exposing him to new experiences. All these help to improve his conduct at home. The walks also keeps them moving. All that energy-burning activity serves to curb many of his destructive, hyperactive and unruly behavior. It’s great for keeping both your weights down. Helps with your cardiovascular health, too. In fact, just 30 minutes of walking three times a week can reduce your blood pressure and increase your energy levels, as well as his! What’s more, it increases the bonds of friendship and trust between owner and dog.
Kids, Dogs, And Beautiful Gardens
If we do turn to the left and walk through the neighborhood, we will encounter very different sets of distractions.
The row of beautiful, well-kept homes in our community is a lovely and peaceful place to walk through if you’re not with your dog. Especially with mine who’s still not as calm and disciplined as I would like him to be. He’s a one-year-old Black Labrador male who just wants to run up to everyone he meets, especially kids who want to pet him and play with him. But he’s nearly 70 pounds of raw energy, an animal who is not aware what his mass can do to a small toddler who he probably wants to play with, too!
I know this because he and my son do a lot of roughhousing in the house, and my son is ten, maybe close to his weight. But Mochi just knocks him down like he’s not there! But that’s fine. He’s my son, he’s my pet. But out there, well, I really don’t want my dog to hurt any young person, or any person, for that matter, in our neighborhood.
And I learned the hard way that not everyone can be so forgiving of pets.
Now, people being people, there will be a few homes here that have dogs of their own. And you know how they all seem to feel each other’s presence when they’re close by. So every time I walk my dog through the neighborhood, all you’ll hear are the barking of dogs, up and down the once tranquil road! And Mochi, being so energetic as he normally is, will be straining on his leash, barking back at every home that has a dog that sensed his presence, and I assume, are also going nuts behind those walls, those fences, inside garages and living rooms up and down our normally quiet little horseshoe corner of the world.
Don’t Forget Your Poop Bag!
But this route does have its charms: the winding paths, the trees, the beautiful gardens, and yes, the neighbors. It’s nice to sometimes socialize with people you just see and wave at driving to and from work, or the nearby strip mall. It’s great to have the kids fuss over Mochi, and he seems to enjoy the attention just as equally.
One thing that I really hate, that he does, is when he does his business on my neighbors’ nicely manicured grass. Dogs will be dogs, And I’m sure their pets do their business on our lawn, too, sometimes. But that’s why we clean up after them! Still, it’s a bit embarrassing, having your dog poop on someone else’s lawn. Can’t be helped. Clean up, and move on! But this is all good. After all, these walks serve to improve their digestive system, preventing constipation, and promoting a more regular movement of their bowels.
At the end of it all, no matter which route we take, he is calm, happy and content. At least for a couple of hours. And I have recharged my mind, calmed my spirit, cleared my anxieties. And yes, exercised my body, my temple. And socialized with my neighbors. And the same can be said for Mochi, too.
Of course, now he wants to play with me just a little bit more before heading in! He does this thing when we’re just getting to our driveway where he starts jumping up and towards me, biting his leash, trying to pull me down. Last burst of energy, I suppose. After spending all that time trying to run down squirrels, entertaining the neighborhood kids, barking up a storm as if teasing the other dogs because they’re inside, while he’s outside walking through their turf, now, he wants more time with me.
And most times, I would oblige. We spend a few more minutes in front of the house, just roughhousing. But not today. It’s cold, and it’s wet out. He will have to do without his after-walk play. Just for today.
The last part of the ritual: dog and master share a quiet moment on the couch, watching TV. Where it all began. That, too, is a benefit.