Someone had taken great care in spelling out the words “SLOW DOWN” out of sticks and stones gathered from the urban trail my dogs and I were hiking recently. With three senior age dogs, it’s a message I have to take to heart as our pack moves slower than it once did when we were all younger pups. Still, we remain committed to our daily walks—I have the evening shift, while my wife gladly handles the morning walks. The dogs wouldn’t have it any other way, and it keeps us all fit and trim.
I saw an article in the New York Times today that cites a British study that found that dog owners spend close to 300 minutes each week walking their dogs, about 200 more minutes walking than people without dogs. The study was conducted by the University of Liverpool and published in Scientific Reports. The comments on the article numbered over 200 with nearly all praising the virtues of “walking the dog” and expressing the joy and health benefits they gained by the activity.
My fellow hiker’s message to “SLOW DOWN” is an important one but it is also a command given to me daily by my dogs. On leash or off, they take their time sniffing about, exploring the scents left by other dogs, other creatures and the natural smells abundant in nature. The dogs pace now slowing with age seems only to heighten their sense of smell. There is a particular joy to walking old dogs, a sentiment expressed perfectly in a Facebook post I saw written by the renown children’s book (Because of Winn-Dixie) author Kate DiCamillo, she wrote:
Last week, I was taking care of a friend’s old dog.
Walks are a different thing entirely when you’re with an old dog.
You think that you’re looking at the world, seeing it.
But then you take a walk with an old dog and you realize that you had been rushing past it all.
“Here. Now. This.”
These are the words that you think when you’re walking with an old dog.
And, in the end, those are pretty good words.
Our dogs and I will continue our daily walks and try to remember to slow down. We’ll recall the words—here, now, this. And savor every moment we have together. We’ll stop to smell the … well, I’ll let them fill in the blank.