Everyone over the age of 35 remembers Crash Test Dummies ‘Afternoons and Coffee Spoons’. And even though the lead singer’s voice makes me feel ever so slightly nauseous and terribly anxious (he sounds like he’s singing at 16 rpm instead of 45), the song is one which sticks in your head. Not only because its catchy and jaunty, but because the underlying message is conversely, so terribly depressing. I always, without fail, picture myself as an old lady in a nursing home cupping endless cups of tea whenever I hear it, and immediately want to craft a DNR directive.
This weekend I found myself unaccountability singing it to myself while walking the dog and replacing the words ‘coffee spoons’ with ‘dog walks’. It didn’t add it its allure, but it mentally helped me change the mental image from one of decay to one of movement and transition.
You see, as a single dog owner, living and working in a 700 sq ft apartment, some days it does feel like my life is measured out in dog walks. Yes I work, I play, I watch way too many movies, read, eat and sleep.. but every day is measured out by the three walks my dog gets.
Every morning, every day around 5pm (its my official ‘got to leave the house or I’m officially a hermit’ time) and then again around 8pm. Every single day. For 5 years (so far).
Sure on the weekend’s we’ll hike, we’ll hit the dog park or go camping in the summer, but every day, without fail, on with the leash and out the door. (him, not me.. I’m safe off leash)
Such is the life of someone without a back or front yard.
Given that every walk is a minimum of a mile, usually 2, this equates to a minimum of 5,460 miles walked since I adopted my dude. That’s only 20 miles short of walking from Denver to Moscow, Russia.
Yes, I do have calves of steel.. why do you ask?
And since each walk takes anywhere from 30 min to and hour or two, (lets say an average of an hour), this means since 2008, I’ve spent about a solid 7 months just walking the dog.
That’s a lot of time.
I’m not complaining. I love walking my dog. I meet a lot of people.. in fact, I’ve met almost every neighbor within a 4 block radius of my apartment (I know all of their dogs name.. people names, not so much). I’ve walked a path around Wash Park so many times that I notice the really small changes that time and weather brings. The splitting of trees due to a heavy snowfall, the formation of hummus when fall leaves finally get a dose of rain, the first snowdrops and daffodils, and of course, the first true summer day when the sprinklers hit surprised runners (which never fails to make me laugh).
During my dog walks I’ve watched the 5 week nesting of a bald eagle, encountered foxes in the storm drains who hiss at my dogs’s curiosity, seen a coyote jog down the middle of the street, bunnies run down back alleys and encountered more Canadian geese than Canada really needs.
I’ve speed walked away from eery men who made the hairs on my neck stand up, slowed down to watch my dog pointing a squirrel, jogged through every temperature and never, ever skipped a day (polar vortex, what polar vortex? flu? whats that?).
During my walks I usually listen to podcasts. Laughing, learning or just tuning out the noises I don’t want to hear. My yoga instructor thinks I’m perpetually joyful because she often encounters me walking my dog with an inane grin in my face (sorry love, its probably Frank Skinner, not inner peace), and I laugh out loud with some regularity.
(Who knows, there’s probably some other dog walker out there writing about the crazy laughing lady they see every day)
Some days I put in my earphones and don’t turn anything on. Preferring to confer a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on my walk, without the actual noise of music or talk. During these walks, I might ponder the latest work conundrum, how to make my ever increasing salary fit my every increasing set of needs, or just look at the mountains in the distance and breath in and out.
I chat on the phone to friends, reorder prescriptions, check my email and have even shopping Amazon while walking the dog. I’ve taken conference calls (taking notes while leaning on a tree), mailed packages, grocery shopped and even gone on dates while walking my dog.
Usually though.. its far more relaxing. Just one foot in front of the other. Over and over. Until I’m too tired, too cold, out of time or in need of the bathroom. The dog.. he’d go forever. He doesn’t care. As long as he’s out sniffing curbs, grass, trees and dog butts, he could care less if I’m curing cancer or breaking up with a boyfriend on the other end of the leash. Whether it takes 30 minutes or 3 hours, he’s perfectly happy to trot along/ lunge for cats/stalk squirrels/ give random dogs the stink eye all while pee gallons upon gallons on every stick, tree and mound of snow he passes. I swear, that dog is 99% pee. 1% stink.
Some people consider it unthinkable to be so tied to an animal, to that commitment of walk after walk, day after day. Those people don’t own dogs, have big yards or just don’t consider dogs to need more than a roof and some food. I am not those people.
Like my dog, I need socialization, exercise and to check out the world every day.. How else to be ‘in the world’ than being outside, in the world. We’re similar, my dog and I. Though I tend to save my peeing for more appropriate places.