“When you pray, move your feet.”
My dogs have taught me a lot. Apollo has taught me to enjoy taking naps more. Princess has taught me the importance of the simple things in life, and in the last year it has been walking.
Princess is almost 6 years old and Apollo is a little over 5. Princess is a mix of Maltese and shih tzu and Apollo is 100% shih tzu. In the last year, walking them has become one of my favorite things to do, and it is something I have been choosing to do over even watching television with my boyfriend.
For the record, Apollo HATES walks. Al (my boyfriend) and I didn’t know this about his breed when he purchased him at a pet store when he was a frantic, circling little puppy. I came home one day and he was doing tight circles at the bottom of a child’s play crib. Apollo has been doing anxious circles ever since. Back then we thought he was such an ugly little guy, it made him the cutest and most lovable pet in the world.
Now, if I interrupt his nap or his usual backyard circles with a walk around the block, he rebels. He sits down on the ground and has to be either dragged or carried, with the latter being a terrible choice five blocks from the house and 20 pounds, and when we get home he will mark in our kitchen! We can’t do anything but laugh, and it has led us to contemplate getting a doggie stroller for him. I would literally do anything for Apollo.
Princess, on the other hand, exudes SO MUCH JOY at the mere mention of the “the double-u word” as Al and I have to say it when we are around her, that I have turned it into a game.
I usually take her for a walk in the morning after a client or in the afternoon after I workout. After I pick up all nine pounds of her and give her hugs and kisses, I put her down and make eye contact with her.
It becomes a staring contest every time.
I give her time to guess what I’m thinking before I even say anything.
Most of the time she gets it right.
“Princess. What do you want to do right now?”
~Princess’s eyes get bigger~
“Princess, what is your favorite thing ever?”
~Slight tremors begin~
“Princess, what do you want to do right now?”
~Tiny doggie sigh~
“Princess, should we just stay home and not do anything?”
~Her eyes begin to water~
“Princess, you want to go for a….”
~A whine/squeal issues from the back of her throat~
“Princess! Do you want to go outside?”
~”The Head Tilt”. Kills me every time.~
“Princess! Should we go outside?”
~Tail that has been wagging, wags harder~
“Princess! Do you want to go for a WALK?!”
I can basically hear it in her barks: “IT’S THE BEST DAY EVER!!! I GET TO GO FOR A WALK!!! IT’S THE BEST DAY EVER!!! HEY, GUYS!!! I’M GOING FOR A WALK!!! I’M GOING FOR A WALK!!! I’M GOING FOR A WALK!!!”
I have to admit, the build up and watching her joyful explosion is one of the best parts of my day. It’s a little game we play. She knows exactly what she’s gonna get when I look at her in that certain way. And she is so cautious and patient to make sure she is getting what she wants, she doesn’t want to fool herself if she assumes too quickly. She is definitely the smartest little doggie I know!
The joy doesn’t end there. While we are walking, all she wants to do is say hi to everyone and to sniff EVERYTHING. I can’t believe it took my six years into her life before I started doing this. It really is the highlight of my day. And, since she truly lives up to her name “Princess”, she always makes sure she goes #2 on our walks because it means she doesn’t have to do it in her yard at home.
I used to think I was only walking her for complete selfless reasons. But, if that were true, I wouldn’t keep doing it, because I think that would mean I would have to not want to do it. But I DO want to do it, because I love it. This is a big deal for me because I never envisioned myself as being a dog person, I have always been so connected to cats since I was little. I think this was mostly due to a dog allergy I have, I am not allergic to cats or hypoallergenic dogs like my two dogs. This made me gloat that cats are way easier to have as pets than dogs, and I used to make fun of dog people because their dogs were always so needy.
But now that I have two dogs, I love that they are needy! My cat is great, but he never wants to hang out, and that’s no fun.
Since taking Princess out for walks I have realized what a beautiful little neighborhood I live in, too. In the last couple weeks I have taken it upon myself to pick up trash off the ground and throw it in trash cans along the route in an effort to help keep our neighborhood clean. It just makes me feel good I am helping. If I find a plastic bottle or some other recyclable, I will throw it in someone’s blue recycle bin. And, yes, I make sure to pick up after Princess, too. I am not that kind of dog owner!
Since I am not originally from Florida and therefore I am not familiar with that many plant and flower species that thrive down here, I love looking at the different kinds of foliage people have outside their homes. Without my baby Princess, I never would have known that hibiscus flowers come in a yellow and purple variety, and that there are bell-shaped bright red flowers and so many different types of cacti grow here in the sub tropics. Earlier this week I even got some fresh flowers from a flowering tree someone has just cut down; I just went and picked a little branch off. A block from home, my neighbor lady saw me carrying the yellow flowers, and snipped some more yellows of another variety off her plant. I got two types of beautiful yellow flowers to display in my house! I was so grateful because I used to buy flower cuttings all the time, but it got to be beyond my budget, so I had stopped quite some time ago. Putting fresh, bold living color back into my house in my kitchen and in my living area in my covered backyard was a really great treat this week, all because I decided to start taking Princess for walks.
Walking by far is one of the healthiest activities you can do, no matter what your fitness level is. I recall when I used to train a man who had Alzheimer’s, walking was the only thing that really helped him the most. Getting outside in the fresh air and seeing his joy at looking at flowers and plants in his neighborhood, now that I think of it, the look on his face was the same as Princess’s when I break the news to her about going for walks. My client’s nurses would all exclaim how his symptoms were so much slower to progress than other patients in his condition, all because of the walks we used to go on. Unfortunately that was a long time ago, and our sessions and walks had ended even some time before I saw him last, but that stayed with me. Walking is such a simple and beautiful practice, and it is something that Princess reminds me to commit to every day.
Even if you don’t have a dog, take the time to go for a walk. Walk around your neighborhood, along the beach, through a park, or through the woods. Walk through downtown or residential areas. Give yourself the opportunity to experience new scenery, any scenery. Don’t put any kind of time restraint on it, and don’t give yourself any kind of goal end point. The beauty of walking is to just experience the sensation of walking, the miracle that is your physical body.
We are built to move. Experience that in the most simple way, enjoy it, and have the greatest rewards come out of the simplest things in your life.