The benefits of dog walking

Every morning, I wake up at 6:45 a.m. and put on:

  • A pair of wool socks
  • And then another
  • Long johns
  • Sweat pants
  • A tank top
  • A t-shirt
  • A hoodie
  • A down parka
  • Sorel boots
  • A long scarf
  • Some woollen mittens
  • And a toque

before filling my pockets with lavender-scented poop bags and kibble. Then I spend a solid 10 minutes trying to clip a leash on my very excited dog before michelin-manning it out the back door.

Every time that blast of cold hits my face, I think: “I’m a good dog owner, I’m a good owner, I’m a good dog owner” while gritting my teeth and dreaming about the fence we’re going to get as soon as the ground thaws. By about the tenth minute, we’ve reached a local trail and Odie is prancing about like a king. I can’t feel my nose.

FullSizeRender

There are no dignified photos of me in my dog walk getup, so here’s one of Odie in the snow, pre haircut.

The walk home – about half an hour later – is usually a bit more eventful. Cars pulling out of driveways, kids walking to school, and retirees taking out their garbage in their pyjamas. Odie, whose universe used to be limited to a backyard, greets them all by jumping on them.

But last week he suddenly started barking. I was puzzled until I saw the stout elderly lady who had slipped and fallen. She’d been on the ground in her nightgown for nearly half an hour in -35 degree weather. Her nose was bleeding, but she didn’t want a doctor. She asked for help getting up and into the warmth of her home.

I tied Odie to a post, put one of my billion layers over her legs, ran to get JF, and we helped her inside. After about ten minutes of hand-wringing over the possibility that she was concussed, I called the paramedics after all. Before leaving for work, I made sure they found her house.

On our after-work walk, Odie and I dropped in for a visit. Jean was fine, but her nose hurt like the dickens.

Morals of the story? Dog walking is a great way to meet people. Also, visit your older neighbours regularly. Also, spring will be awesome.

Digging around for his frisbee

Digging around for his frisbee

Advertisements

Unlearning what I have learned

Tonight, mom and I went to Hope Lives Here, a fundraiser for the Georgian Bay Cancer Support Centre. The big room was filled with people celebrating cancer patients and survivors – bound together by shared experience.

I was moved by stories of courage, loss and, most of all, hope. I was also a bit overwhelmed by faces from my past.

If you aren’t from a small town, here’s what it’s like: there’s no use hiding in the bathroom when you’re guaranteed to know the woman peeing next to you.

If you were a total misfit and weirdo most of your youth (ahem), this lack of anonymity can be trying. But most of the time, it’s nice to feel connected to those around you. I think that’s what most mean when they use the word community: people who share a common story.

When I first moved to Toronto, I made eye contact with everyone I passed on the sidewalk, talked to anyone I rode more than two floors with in an elevator, and always made friends with seatmates on the subway, whether they smelled like garbage or not.

Fast-forward to now. The chatty salesperson trying to recommend a product makes me want to claw my eyes out. The old lady asking me where I got my coat gives me tappy-foot syndrome.  The waitress who can’t stop talking about the weather is deeply irritating.

My ability to remain disconnected from (or inability to connect with?) people I bump into every day is sad. In the words of Yoda, I must unlearn what I have learned.

This event was a good start. A reminder of the importance of community – in helping people heal, giving us purpose, and bringing our days meaning. I’m going to carry that lesson in my back pocket these next few weeks and see where it takes me.