One of life’s unexpected joys for me has been to walk my dog. Obviously there is the exercise and the company, but I have discovered some hidden pleasures that I never expected.
Take for example the changes of the seasons and to be more specific the huge fluctuations of temperature depending on whether I am walking Bentley in Sydney, the South Coast, the Central Coast or the Blue Mountains. Nature reaches out and touches me with a new bud, a wet mottled tree trunk, a gust of autumn wind shredding slowly balding branches or the heat of the summer sun slowing me down to a snail- paced walk.
Walking with Bentley however has the added benefit of shifting my mood. Having never lived alone, until five years ago, I have found how easy it is to sit and read or potter around the house or binge on Netflix, or do absolutely nothing, instead of getting out into the sun, the wind, the warmth, and the cold and surrendering to the rhythm of one foot striding after the other. Bentley needs a daily walk. And apparently so do I.
I have a rule when I go out for a walk. I always smile at the first person I pass in the morning no matter how I feel. Sometimes I strike up a conversation with a hearty ‘Good Morning.” Occasionally there is a white haired elder who pats my dog. “This is Bentley,” I say, a bit like introducing my partner.
There is another Bentley who lives nearby and naturally we greet our dogs before we greet each other. But the biggest shifts for me occur when I go to the dog park. I cannot stay somber or solemn or serious at a dog park. It is impossible to sit by myself with my dog by my side without a dog or a dog-owner striking up a conversation with me. Sometimes the conversations last twenty or thirty minutes.
No one is in a rush when they go to the dog park.
There are groups of dogs and owners, chatting, chasing balls, whistling, calling out dog names. Some owners sitting on benches, bending down to pick up what their dogs have dropped, and usually, not always, but usually dog owners catch up with other dog owners and know that they will see them again sometimes soon.
And then there is the returning home after shopping, or dinner or a holiday. There he is. Tail wagging, always forgiving, always ready for a scratch or a cuddle. And at night with my bed half empty since the love of my life died, Bentley takes his place in his own fluffy dog bed and the gentle snore of his Shi Tzu nose lulls me to sleep.
I have discovered there is even a jealous side to him. Sometimes when I am in a conversation with one of my children or a friend he will interrupt with a fairly good attempt at talking. It’s hard to describe but it sounds like a deep whine or soft growl and it is incessant. Eventually I surrender and give him a chewy treat and he gives me ten minutes. He wants to join in. Who ever heard of a dog wanting to be part of a human conversation?
It all sounds very ordinary I know. But surely it is the acknowledgment of the ordinary that makes our lives extraordinary.
At least that’s how it is for me.