Life Lessons Learned From Walking The Dog
I used to believe that walking my dog was little more than a chore. A lovely chore, of course, one that got myself and my four-legged companion out in the fresh air for a few quiet minutes of the day, but a chore all the same. One that was repetitive, without much fanfare, and generally mindless. The dog would trot along, sniffing that which needed sniffed and barking at that which deserved a good bark, and my only job was to be the human who got him home safe when it was all said and done. This was the job, I thought, of walking a dog. Nothing more and nothing less.
That was, until, I realized that it was indeed a whole lot more.
For it was on one day, a day without any special significance or noteworthiness to speak of, that my dog and I were out for our usual foray about the neighborhood that I realized something; nearly all of life’s most important lessons, all of its wisdoms and its knowledge, can be learned from walking the dog.
These lessons are not often obvious at first, as most important life lessons are not terribly keen on advertising themselves all that well. But for those who have taken the pilgrimage that is a good dog walk, once you spot them they become outstandingly clear.
Pick Up The Messes You Make
Dog walks will produce messes. As the walker, you have to be prepared for the fact that your dog will find a way to do their business at the most inopportune places, often at the most inopportune times. Your job, therefore, is simple; be prepared to pick it up. Don’t be the shmuck that leaves the mess out there in the world so others can pick it up for you. There’s enough droppings left by everybody else, and you don’t want to be the one to just add more to the pile.
So whip out a plastic bag, roll up your sleeves, and be that person who picks up their own messes. It’s going to stink, yes, and afterwards you will probably compulsively wash your hands for an hour, but you know in the end it’s the right thing. Too many people today believe it is okay to shrug off a pile of dog poop that is their clear responsibility to pick up, and are seemingly okay with leaving the ground they walk on a little dirtier than it was when they found it. Don’t be like those people. Have the guts to be just a little bit better.
As you’re out with your dog, odds are you will stumble upon places that you know you aren’t supposed to walk, and still either you or your joyful companion will want to walk on anyway. Maybe it’s a neighbor’s yard that your dog has taken a liking to and would very much like to explore, or maybe it’s an off-limits path behind the neighborhood that offers you more shade and steadier footing than your regular route. Either way, regardless of the fact that you clearly shouldn’t be there, one (or in some cases both) of you will want to venture there anyway.
Those places do not welcome you for a reason, and to disrespect those boundaries is to disrespect the people who put them there. Be it for privacy, safety, or likely a healthy mixture of the two, people expect you and your dog to have the common courtesy of heeding the wishes of their space. So if your dog tries to scamper into a neighbors yard, put a stop to it. If you see a restricted path that tempts you to traverse it, resist it. Walking your dog is just as much an exercise of respect to the world around you as it is an exercise of the body, and we would all do well to remember it.
Stay In Control
As much as we love them, and despite the depth of trust and affection that we have come to form with them, we must always remember that when we walk a dog we are, truly, walking a dog. And dogs, for those of you unaware, can occasionally not be the most behaved creatures this earth has produced, even those who been so dutifully trained. The can lunge and snap at cats or other passing creatures they don’t care for, they can frighten (even unintentionally) passersby, and they can, given the opportunity, take complete control of the walk itself.
You, however, must keep that control for yourself.
Going on that walk, going down the roads and routes that you see fit to travel, are choices made entirely by you, and it is therefore your responsibility to ensure that you stay in control of the journey as best you can. If you don’t like the direction, change it. If there is misbehaving going on, correct it. You are in control, you have strength and the know-how to makes things right for you and others. Just make sure you act like it.
Above All, Remember The Other Walkers
Never forget, in light of all of this, that you are not walking alone. The streets, the parks, the sidewalks are brimming with other dog walkers just like you. Be patient with them. If your leashes get tangled up, or if their dog growls at yours, if they falter in their duties as responsible dog walkers in any way, just remember that this stuff can be hard sometimes and that they may be doing their very best. Don’t bark at them in the same way that your dog would, don’t treat them with a sense of difference or dissociation. Support them, encourage them, let them know that they are doing just fine. Because again, this stuff can be hard. This task of ours. Don’t make it any harder on them, and hope that they won’t make it any harder on you.
So clean up the messes you leave behind. Respect the rules the world asks of you. Do your very best to stay in control. And remember that there are others in the exact same boat as you are. This, truly, is sometimes all the best we can do, and is often all we can manage on these hard, beautiful dog walks of ours.
© 2019 Carson Lloyd