There seem to be more dogs getting walked these days – or are we just doing it all at the same time? Dog walking, I would argue, is important for both physical and mental health. We have been committed dog walkers from graduate school days when we dog-sat a Newfoundland and a Labrador. Our first dog, Taffy, a Welsh terrier, was a present to my Dad on his seventieth birthday in the hope that he would take more walks to help his heart condition. When my Dad’s heart gave out two years later, we took over the naughty and ill-trained dog from my unable-to-cope mother. Taffy returned to my mother five years later – a bit calmer – when we went overseas on study leave. When we came back, we saw how that naughty dog had enhanced my mother’s life. Those walks around her neighbourhood kept her fit and brought her new friends. At home he was great company. There was no way Taffy was coming back to us.
Our next dog was acquired when our young sons convinced a babysitter that a trip to the SPCA pound would be a good diversion. Heart-rending tales of the cutest dog in the world came home and soon Scruffles was saved from death row. The boys’ enthusiasm for walks diminished quite quickly but I found those walks gave me essential thinking time. When it rained, I donned my father’s rain pants and my father-in-law’s LL Bean Jacket, wrapping myself in my forebears as I braved inclement weather. Problems that seemed insoluble, writing tasks that were blocked, difficult interpersonal relations – all became easier when pondered in the fresh air. After fourteen years Scruff passed on and we acquired our first puppy, Scout. Nearly six, he remains full of beans and addicted to chasing a ball. I have regular dog-walk dates.