The list of moments I miss over this past month, since my heartthrob hounddog Teddy died, starts with missing walking him every day. Many don’t take on a dog as a pet because the care for them is admittedly time-consuming. They are pretty much helpless and need us for their food, their medicines, their grooming, and their exercise. On the other hand, there are people who expressly bring a dog into their homes (and wind up with all the tender benefits—their affection, their laughable ways, their loving energy imbued in every corner of every room) to make themselves get out of the house for a daily dog walk. Covid statistics state that dog adoptions were high in numbers for just this reason.
The Dog Whisperer Caesar Milan is known for teaching us that, yes of course our dogs need our love and kindness. Yes, they need good nutrition. They need us to take our leader position as #1 in their pack. But number one on Milan’s list of making a dog happy is exercise. When they’re young, they need to run. As they get older, a brisk walk is the right thing. And when they are really old, as 16-year-old Teddy was this past year, a lovely stroll will suffice.
Before Covid, when I was traveling like crazy, Teddy had a dog walker who would make sure to take him out for a good hour every day. But no matter how late I might get home from the airport, perhaps after midnight, knowing it had been several hours since Teddy had his walk, it was never a hardship, weary as I might be, to drop my bags, grab the leash and see his smile (he literally showed all his upper teeth in a big grin!) and his furiously wagging tail. We wouldn’t go out for long on those late-night saunters, maybe just 15 minutes down the street and back. But to witness his joy, to feel his tugging toward that tree, that bush, gave me as much pleasure as it did him.
We’ve all noticed the increase in neighborhood walking since Covid started. And I’d say in my hood, about 80% of those constantly out cruising the sidewalks are walking their dogs. We chat about their rescues, how old they are, the mischief they’ve been into lately.
Along with longer dedicated EverWalk outings, 5-10 miles usually for me these days, I find a neighborhood walk with a dog a different, delightful experience. I would often load Teddy into the back of the car and drive to an area neither of us knew. Who knows, maybe at his height, the same bushes on the same streets every day would have sufficed, but just as I was happy to see different trees, flowers, houses, I imagined he was enjoying some new scenery, too. There is a largely Jewish neighborhood a couple of miles from me and I really enjoyed walking Teddy there on a Saturday, so many people out walking to and from the Synagogue. Many would stop and ask what kind of dog Teddy was and he was our entrée into other conversations.
Bonnie is somewhat of a dog whisperer herself. We never make it far on any of our walks without stopping because she cannot help herself from meeting every single dog, tickling under their chins, finding out the entire life history. And then we answer dozens of questions about her loveable Mister, too.
Just as I found myself observing my surroundings infinitely more when I became an EverWalker five years ago, seeing so many details that I missed on my bike or certainly from the car, I find that I notice much more that I pass when walking a dog than without. Maybe it’s the two of us getting on the same wavelength of being intensely engaged with our environments. While Teddy is nose-fixated every step of the way (we humans evidently have some six million nasal receptors, while dogs have some 300 million!), I become ears-and-eyes-fixated on every little moment we pass. We’re in our walks full-tilt together, my dog and I.
The very morning Teddy and I said our final farewells, July 25, his hind legs no longer able to push him up, he perhaps ironically could still walk just fine. Sure enough, hours before the appointed, dreaded time for the vet to arrive, we walked as happily as ever, my hounddog and I, for thirty minutes down the familiar streets, past the familiar rose bushes.
I miss you with all my heart, Teddy. And I surely miss our daily walks. Come let me walk you again, won’t you?