There are oodles and oodles of valuable lessons my furry companions have taught me over the years. I must be honest though and confess, I have not necessarily learned all that much from my cats. I think they keep all their wisdom to themselves. My dogs, on the other hand, or should I say paw, have been my guides to this sometimes confusing thing called life.
I am a dedicated exerciser (I know many of you rolling your eyes right now, but please don’t hate me. I have my other areas of procrastination, believe me). Anyways, I love to walk outdoors and have always done so with some sort of fur beside me. For many years my dachshund Frankie walked with me during the spring, summer and fall months. During the winter she wanted nothing to do with the cold, so I took to my treadmill, dreaming of next spring each step I took. I once heard dogs walk four miles to humans one mile. Frankie’s two-inch legs surely had a workout! When Frankie became paralyzed I lost my walking buddy. Fortunately, my lab Kylie was old enough at that point to now accompany me on my walks.
Not only do I feel good getting my butt into gear each morning, but I know how good it is for Kylie. There are days I don’t want to walk, but I find on those days, she is the reason I talk myself into hitting the pavement.
I faced an interesting challenge a little over a week ago and it prompted this post. Kylie tore the cruciate in her knee (similar to a human tearing their ACL). She is recovering from surgery, but will be out of fast pace walking for the next 6-8 weeks. The day after she hurt herself I had to talk myself into walking out the front door without her. I realized in that moment I have always had a dog at my side when I venture out for my daily exercise. They are my safety net and help surround me in my comfort zone. It was a scary feeling for me not having an extra four legs beside me. I had this overwhelming feeling like everyone who passed by me was looking at ME. With a dog at my side I always felt like they were looking at the dog.
When I was in my twenties I had a hard time going places alone. My stomach would feel as if a thousand butterflies were running into one another and my anxiety was quite high. As I have grown older that feeling has subsided and I find a great deal of empowerment in venturing out on my own, seeing the world through a new set of eyes.
It never occurred to me I still had anxiety issues when it came to walking outdoors alone. It hit me full blast as I walked alone for the first time last week. Luckily, my dedication is strong (along with my treadmill being broken) as I forced myself to keep walking, walking, walking. The further I got along my daily jaunt, the more empowered I felt. By about 1 ½ miles I wanted to shout at the top of my lungs, “I did it! I actually am walking all by myself and I feel great (and I don’t believe people are even looking at me!)” As I made the final stretch home I was so proud of myself and felt as if I completed a marathon… a marathon of how powerful one’s mind can be. Each day since has gotten easier and easier for me to take that first step out the door on my own. I am even making record time in my walking and most likely burning more calories too, which is just icing on the cake (gee, maybe I could eat a piece of cake and not feel guilty! I’ll save that for a future lesson.)
I am thrilled with my new sense of self, but am looking forward to mid summer when Kylie and I can walk together again. I take pride in providing all her basic needs and walking is essential for her health. Walking with your dog is also a time of bonding with each other which makes me feel close to her heart and soul. Even though I am happy for the “new me” I am looking forward to the day feet and paws hit the pavement together once again.