I never wanted a dog, but one day the pressure from our youngest got too great and we gave in. I was totally ill prepared to be a dog owner. I was one of those people that didn’t really own a proper coat, relying instead on a light jacket in the car with maybe a jumper underneath if I actually needed to be out in the cold for any length of time. It took a few months for me to realise that this just wouldn’t cut it, if Rufus was to get the walks he needed and I wasn’t going to freeze to death in the middle of winter.
So, gradually we made the transition to proper dog owners. Wellies were bought first and then over time various coats to protect us against whatever the English weather decided to throw at us. At least two walks a day had to be fitted into our schedules which meant that if we had to be somewhere early, we had to get up earlier. And then there was vet insurance, vaccinations and, what to do with Rufus if we wanted to go on holiday? I knew having a dog would be a responsibility of course and as a family we understood what it would entail however, what I hadn’t really thought about is how much Rufus would bring to us!
Dogs it seems, require nothing more than food and water and to be loved. They ask nothing else of us and that’s quite refreshing. They welcome you when you arrive home and have some kind of sixth sense if you are feeling sad or unwell. To sit and stroke a dog for five minutes seems to relax both them and us and a daily walk for us humans has got to be a good thing.
Here’s some of the good points about owning a dog?
Dogs need to be walked and gone are the days where we could just open our front doors and let them go. Like anything in life we get used to what we have to do and so walking twice a day is now part of our daily routine. It obviously has health benefits both physically and mentally but what I’ve also found is that we have discovered new places to visit, places that wouldn’t have even been on our radar had we not been looking for somewhere new to walk the dog. You also see your own neighborhood from a different perspective, finding routes across football pitches and parks instead of always using the pavements and it makes for a much nicer walk. You also tend to walk more, just to do those little jobs like picking up a birthday card because instead of jumping into the car you see it as another opportunity to walk the dog.
For some reason people behave differently when you have a dog. I live in London and contrary to what people may say I have always found it a friendly city, however if you have a dog in tow people stop and talk to you! So much so that when we first had Rufus I was completely amazed as more people spoke to me than when I had a new baby in tow! Weird I know, but true. The funny thing is you also do it and it becomes a habit and one day you’ll find yourself walking in the street without said dog and say ‘hi’ to some unsuspecting passerby who is completely thrown by your cheery hello.
Seriously, I wouldn’t have believed it if you had told me that I would meet some of my best friends by owning a dog. It starts slowly of course, first a hello, then a little chat, but as we are creatures of habits and have our little routines, you seem to find that you bump into the same people day after day and pass the time together. Eventually one day you realise that you would now call these people friends. Someone maybe suggests taking a walk in a different park tomorrow or tells you of a yoga class they go to or that they are going somewhere later and would you like to go along and voila, a friendship has been made.
Time to think
What else can you do whilst walking a dog. Ok, chat to your new friends maybe or your non dog walking friends on the phone. But as this is an exercise you repeat day in day out, there will eventually be days where there is no one else around and you have left your phone at home. On those days what else can you do but think. For me it’s an hour where I can mull things over, calm down or plan. It ‘me’ time. Time where you can’t do much else and for me it’s become a welcome and useful part of my day.
It’s true that my dog walk usually consists of a stroll through the woods or a slow walk in the park but every so often we pick up the pace or climb a large hill. Walking is good for you. The NHS says that walking needs to be brisk to deliver any physical health benefits, however I’m sure even my moderate pace must benefit me, when you consider I probably dog-walk for 10 or more hours a week. The physiological benefits are well documented. Walking is said to increase our energy, lift our mood, make us happier, boost self-esteem and alleviate depression.
Brings us closer to nature
The fact that a dog needs to be walked everyday means you learn to re-engage with nature, wherever you may live. Whether it’s in the countryside or a city park, It teaches us to be more in tune with the seasons and appreciate all it has to offer us. Bluebells in spring, the smell of newly mown grass in the summer months or the beautiful colours of Autumn and then the frost that twinkles in the early morning light of winter or untouched snow covered grass. The joy of being involved with the day to day happenings of nature really helps you to evaluate what’s important and appreciate the special little things that are so often overlooked in our busy lives.
Get out clause
Ok, I admit that on one or two occasions I’ve got out of something I didn’t want to do by saying, “sorry I can’t just now because I have to go home and walk the dog”. Not strictly an untruth because Rufus always likes a walk but maybe not an hour after his last one. However, I don’t recommend you do it too often or you may just lose those new found friends but on occasion it can be useful 🙂