I believe in walking my dogs every day. But, to be honest, I’m not at all sure how this simple, daily activity turned into a sustaining belief.
It began with Phoebe, our family’s first dog. You see, when I married my husband I married his boys too. Todd and Daniel were 7 and 5 when we married and I moved into their house. I decided to get a dog not too long after that for a number of reasons – one, I’d always wanted a dog and now I owned a house with a fenced-in yard. Two, I wanted something in this new and sometimes awkward family situation for us all to share, something that hadn’t belonged to any of us before. Three, I wanted a reason to get out and be by myself. Phoebe was happy to be all those things for me and for us.
Phoebe became a reason for us, as a family, to go to the park or to go for a hike. I’d grown up in a family that believed in Sunday afternoon walks and it felt comfortable to have walks be a part of my new family life.
Walking Phoebe officially was my job, but at some point my husband started taking her for walks. Howard had grown up with cats, but discovered walking in high school as a way to think more clearly.
We also started walking Phoebe together.
In a couple years our daughter, Taylor, was born. The beautiful fall day we came home from the hospital I put her in a front pack, put the leash on Phoebe and we all went for a walk.
Susie joined our family two weeks before we moved. I don’t know why it was so important to me that we get another dog then. Phoebe was about 10. But now we had two dogs to walk in our new city, our new neighborhood. Soon our new neighbors became friends.
Life was always hard for our son, Daniel. His struggles were our struggles. Walking the dogs gave Howard and me time to talk, to be silent, to take a break. In August, 2000, Daniel took his own life. He was 18. I don’t remember anything about the walk we took that afternoon, after we came home, except that it was the only thing we could do.
Susie is 10 now. Phoebe died shortly after we moved to our current home and not too long thereafter we adopted two homeless puppies. Gracie, Mack and Susie all need walks now. Together Howard and I take all three but when he’s out of town I walk twice a day. Taylor is 16. Sometimes she walks with me and takes a dog and we talk.
I was surprised to realize that this simple act has somehow become a belief. It is just something I do every day and have done my whole married life. Just like getting up in the morning – it’s no big deal. Yet somehow it is.