Someone had been very careful to spell the words “SLOW DOWN” from sticks and stones collected from the urban trail my dogs and I had recently hiked. With three older dogs, this is a message to take to heart as our pack moves more slowly than it did when we were all younger pups. Nevertheless, we remain committed to our daily walks – I work the evening shift while my wife likes to take care of the morning walks. The dogs wouldn’t have it any other way and it keeps us all fit and slim.
I have an article in the New York Times Today, a UK study is cited which found that dog owners walk their dogs nearly 300 minutes a week, about 200 minutes more than people without dogs. The study was carried out by the University of Liverpool and published in Scientific reports. Comments on the article were over 200, with almost all praising the virtues of “walking the dog” and expressing the joy and health benefits they gained from the activity.
The message from my fellow hiker to “SLOW DOWN” is important, but also an order that my dogs give me every day. On a leash or in their free time, they sniff around exploring the scents of other dogs, other creatures, and the natural smells that are abundant in nature. The dogs’ pace, now slowing down with age, only seems to increase their sense of smell. It is a special joy to go for a walk with old dogs, a feeling that is perfectly expressed in a Facebook post that I saw in the famous children’s book (Because of Winn-Dixie) Author Kate DiCamillo, she wrote:
Last week I took care of a friend’s old dog.
Walks are very different when you are with an old dog.
You think you look at the world and see it.
But then you go for a walk with an old dog and find that you have hurried past it all.
“Here. Now. This.”
These are the words that come to mind when you walk an old dog.
And in the end, those are pretty good words.
Our dogs and I will continue our daily walks trying to remind ourselves to slow down. We’ll remember the words – here, now, here. And enjoy every moment we have together. We’re going to stop smelling this … well, I’ll let them fill in the blank.