Winter Walking

I don’t think I have heard anyone ever say that we have had an easy winter. Many were excited with the lack of snow before Christmas- it boded well for an “easy” season. However, the extremes of hot and cold quickly changed everyone’s mind- give me snow ANY day over this continuous ice!

Either way, regardless of the weather, I go out everyday rain or shine to walk the dogs.  I believe this is one of the reasons I have dogs- your really don’t have a choice. The dogs demand it. And I am of the belief that a well behaved dog is a well exercised dog.

I am continuously amazed as a practicing veterinarian how few people really walk their dogs. Then they come to us and complain about behavioral problems- hyperactivity, anxiety, destructive behavior just to name a few. I quickly ascertain by the dog’s reaction in the examination room a little about the lifestyle of the animal- if they are bounding all over the clinic, pulling and jumping- the solution is simple. I prescribe two ½ hour walks per day. There was one client with their obese, overactive and non-neutered male dog who wanted a medication to calm the dog. After the exam, I handed him the prescription. On it was written “minimum of 2 one half hour walks per day, preferably off leash once neutered” The renewals? Forever.   The owner looked at the piece of paper as I handed it to him and said “where do I get this filled?” I smiled innocently and said “at any park”. As an aside, the dog was obese- yet not neutered (we are often told that only neutered animals get fat -NOT TRUE).

The beauty of walking dogs in all weather is that you see a side of our world that many never do. It is only when it is minus 20 or below that the trees sparkle and talk to you. The silence of a cold day is absolute, and you find yourself listening- to the snow moving on the ice, to the wind. It is this commune with nature that I find myself becoming centered. It is my outdoor form of yoga.

There is nothing like walking after an ice storm. You need to place crampons or your snowshoes on to maintain a grip, but when the sun comes through the trees, you are transported into the wonderland of our childhood stories- Narnia, the snow queen, and now for the younger generation Frozen.

Then there are the dogs. Most dogs, even shorthaired dogs, love to go outside. Even our Boston Terrier visitor, with little hair, prefers not to be left behind. If very cold, we put on jackets, but just keeping them moving seems to prevent the shivers. They run, they play, they sniff, they mark, and I guarantee there is never a time when I don’t find myself laughing spontaneously at their antics. This is the best anti-depressant that I know of.

So for those of you who don’t go out – try it. Do it for one month, and tell me how you and your dog feel. The wonders of winter walking will inspire you.