August 24, 2021

Slow Down & Smell the Roses: 8 Lessons I Learned while walking my Dogs.

 

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Pretty much every day, I take my two little, fluffy 27 and 32-pound doodles on a walk.

My favorite part of the walk is probably the start. And I am not referring to the start of the actual right foot left foot part. I am talking about the preparation where I say, “Want to go on a—” and their sweet, floppy ears perk up, their wannabe puppy heads tilt, and within 1.5 seconds, their golden beige, fluffy tails start to wag.

Our Goldendoodle, Cali, eagerly positions herself at my feet and excitingly waits for me to put her harness on. The Labradoodle, Pace (pronounced paw-chee), is another case.

The moment Pace sees me snap Cali’s harness, he goes into a downward dog, and he gets this look on his face as he playfully bows. I always imagine him thinking something like, “Oh, yeah! Here we go. Come and get me, mother f*cker. I dare you. Just try.”

I take one step toward him, and every time, he runs. He is the dog version of “Flash,” the superhero.

Ironically, we named him Pace as it means peace in Italian.

*Insert facepalm here.*

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His speedy catch-me-if-you-can bolt and his piercing bark are anything but peaceful (but how I do love him and would never trade it).

Eventually, the harness goes on, and we set out the door for our 30 to 60-minute walk, depending on the day.

By then, I have seen the excitement and joy in their beings, and for me, the fun is over, but for them, it’s just beginning.

I typically walk fully loaded: a double dog leash with bright colored poop bags in my left hand, my phone in my right, one earbud dangling down my right arm, and the other in my right ear listening to the latest entrepreneur podcast.

(I really should look into dog training audiobooks instead).

Eighty-five percent of the time, my sweet, little, fluffy doodles pull me like they are 70-pound sled dogs. Until they don’t; they happily come to a complete stop and sniff, or sometimes just plop their happy asses down and sit where they are.

Yet still, they act like 70-pound sled dogs, so it takes a bit of pulling to move them. Within the first 10 minutes, it’s easy to be patient, loving, and kind with them. I can use my kind voice which sounds like a Shirley Temple, “C’mon guys! Let’s go,” as I nudge their leashes.

But, some days, after 45 minutes of strolling, sniffing, and sitting, my sweet, patient request turns into a frustrated demand, and I imagine I look like an angry dog mom whom people try to avoid on the sidewalk.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a post complaining about me on Reddit, titled “Miserable Lady who Needs to take Control of her Dogs.”

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Until two weeks ago, I had a moment that shifted things for me. I was on the phone with my cousin while walking—or rather pulling—my dogs. While I had given them a super walk, their added 20 minutes of stopping to smell the roses made me late.

We currently have a lot of construction going on around our house, and there are countless trucks and workers around every day. One of the guys was sitting in a truck, watching us walk for who knows how long. I notice him chuckling as we walked by his truck, and he said with a laugh, “Geeze lady! Frustrated much? Who is taking who for a walk?”

And then he giggled like a little schoolboy.

Though annoyed, I smiled and kept walking.

When we got home 50 yards later, I went to hang up the phone and unload my fully packed walking accessories, and my phone dropped. I let out a grunt, and as I leaned over to pick up the phone, I noticed my two little fluffy doodles just staring at me with no judgment.

Only love.

I remember actually sighing and saying out loud to my two pooches, “I don’t deserve you two.”

In the back of my mind, that man’s judgmental question was circulating, “Who was walking who?”

My answer was, “Yes, I am frustrated. And yes, they were walking me. This is 100 percent my responsibility, and it isn’t fair for me to be irritated with these sweet souls who enrich my life hourly.”

The truth is, once a week, they go to play care where they get to roam free off-leash. It’s the highlight of their week, and it’s also where they learn to wander! How can I expect them to fully behave on a leash throughout the other days?

That is not fair.

While I realized that I can train them, and it is something to consider moving forward, I also realized at the moment, I can choose to shift, enjoy, and be more present with them in the meantime.

So I did. I continued to be fully present during their walks since then, paid full attention to them, and decided to learn to love how they love.

The following are the 8 things I have learned thus far while observing my dogs during their daily walking regimen:

1. They love movement.

They look forward to nothing more than a walk, chasing balls, or moving their bodies. They can go from a full-on nap to just hearing the word “walk” and be enthused about it.

2. They love to listen to their body.

If they want more, they pull. If they are tired, they sit and rest. If they need to go to the bathroom, they go. Pace specifically doesn’t like to eat before a walk. If he knows we are going for a sniff, he will save his food for after.

3. They love everyone—well, almost.

They are mostly loving and kind to everyone, unless something doesn’t energetically feel good to them. Energy doesn’t lie, and they trust that. But they don’t bark or cause a scene; they just move on.

4. They love using smell.

No matter how gross something is, they smell it! They put their nose deep in it, and sometimes, they use that information.

Why don’t we do that? We forget—or at least I do—to stop and smell the roses, choose veggies and fruit by their scent, or even take more time to sit with essential oils and their benefit.

5. They love to pause and take a time-out.

And they don’t care for what. They pause to sit and see if the person walking toward them will say hi, check out the natural beauty in their view, or smell a dead bird or another dog’s poop (gross but they do). I mean they have modeled how to literally appreciate sh*t.

6. They love to play no matter their age.

Our dogs are six and seven. They are a bit older but act like puppies. If they see another dog walking, they revert to their puppy-like stage no matter their age or the other dogs’ age. They have taught me that age is just a number, and we are never too old, too small, or too large to play.

7. They love freedom.

They don’t love a leash, and of course, they want to wander. But their courage and bravery to check out new things and tug this way or that have inspired me to do the same; tug toward the unknown, check it out, then carry on.

8. They love to be outside and not rush home.

They taught me to enjoy the outdoors so well. Though we take many walking paths, Cali knows where she is at all times. At every corner, she will try to direct us away from home. She will actually slow down when she knows we are on our way back. We used to think that she was just tired until we caught on to her tactic. I appreciate their message of encouraging us to stay out, slow down, and not rush.

I am still on a mission with this and have made the following promises to them:

>> Their outdoor and walk time is not mine. I exercise separately from them now, and I only walk them when they can have my full, undivided attention.

>> I will not tug on their leads, and I will let them be free to explore.

>> If they want to stop and say hello to fellow walkers passing by, and if it’s okay with the person, I let them, instead of walking across the street to avoid it.

I am sure I will learn more, as they have already taught me so much.

Is there anything you have learned from walking your beautiful fur creatures? I would love to hear about it in the comments so I can bring in more awareness.

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