Thursday, May 13, 2010

Walking Dogs

I have never been athletic. In elementary school, I was unfailingly the last person to be chosen for the kick ball team. And that suited me just fine. I was assigned to the outfield, where I daydreamed and chatted with the next-to-the-last chosen player on my team until the true athletes managed to get the other side out or the recess bell mercifully rang. My one kick ball injury was when a kicked ball hit me on the head while I was chatting it up with the center-fielder.

Later on I did ice skate and I enjoy swimming. But, even though I've spent my adult years in Southern California, I've never lived in a house with a swimming pool, and I haven't laced on a pair of skates since leaving the East Coast--a very long time ago.

However, I passed my last physical with flying colors. If you examine my picture on the right hand side of the blog, (I'm the short one in the bonnet) you will not need dynamite math skills to determine that I am no youngster. Indeed, I am of an age where nearly all my friends and acquaintances take multiple prescription pills every day. I don't take one.

My secret? I am a dog walker. Not a professional, just a dog person whose canine companions wake me every morning in anticipation of their favorite treat of the day--their early morning walk.

Dogs love routine and they memorize every tiny signal associated with events that they love. For John and me, the clock radio coming on at 4:30 am means "You Must Get Up Out of Your Cozy Bed and Face Another Day!" For Bingley and Magic, the clock radio coming on means "Walkies! Walkies! Walkies! Our Favorite Thing in the Whole Wide World!" (I understand that for some dogs "Yummies! Yummies! Yummies!" is their Favorite Thing in the Whole Wide World, but it's just my luck to have had dogs who prefer Walkies!)

So we stagger into our clothes trying not to fall over enthusiastic hounds, hook up harnesses and leashes, check for poop bags, pepper spray, and flashlight, and set out on our morning trek behind two eager creatures who radiate happiness and vigor.

Rain or shine, we walk the dogs.

It didn't have to be this way. We could have been "smart" and just let them out in the backyard for their early morning outing. Then the day would have taken over and a walk would have been "optional."

Or, we could, even now, steel ourselves against the enthusiastic anticipation of Bingley and Magic and re-train them not to expect to begin their day with a walk.

But that would take sterner stuff than I am made of. And that's what makes it work so well for my health.

If I had a human walking partner, I could explain to them that I was tired, coming down with a cold, feeling the pain of the leg injury I acquired hiking out of the tube in London, or present any other of dozens of excuses that my fertile brain could manufacture.

You might try to give those excuses to two eager, trusting sight hounds. I couldn't. They would never understand and the disappointment in their eyes would haunt me all day long.

So. John and I walk the dogs. Every Morning. Rain or Shine.

No one will ever win an Olympic Medal in Dog Walking. That's ok. The rewards for Dog Walking are built in.

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