As a child, I never realized how much time I spent on my feet. I walked a quarter-mile to the bus stop every morning and a quarter-mile back every afternoon. Most evenings I played tag with my friends. In the winter there was snow to play in; in the summer we could explore the neighborhood all day long.
The older I got, the less I walked. We moved from New York to North Carolina, and now it was too hot and humid to go outside in the summer. I got involved in horseback riding, but just wandering around outside fell by the wayside as I entered middle school and discovered the Internet. I started having health problems and used them as an excuse to stay inside.
I rediscovered walking when I brought home a puppy. Someone at the barn had found her on the side of the road, and I convinced my parents to let us keep her. Lanie was a little puppy when we brought her home, but she soon grew into a big dog. She had lots of energy. Even though she lived outside, in our yard, a dog like that still had to be walked. I was the one who brought her home and talked my parents into keeping her. It was my responsibility to walk her.
I didn’t want a new chore, but I had already learned about taking responsibility for my animals from my equine experiences. If Lanie needed to be walked, I couldn’t argue about walking her. Fortunately, Lanie’s enthusiasm made up for all that I lacked. She was determined that this was going to be fun. I wasn’t allowed to amble along, dragging my feet. With a seventy-pound puppy on the other end of the leash, I had no choice but to pick up my pace. We walked briskly up hills and ran back down them. We stopped to say hello to everyone we met. Sometimes we had to dodge cars or bicycles.
Walking felt good. After I took Lanie for her walk every evening, I could focus better on my homework. I had more energy when I woke up in the mornings. I had more ideas and enthusiasm for my writing. I never walked for exercise, but I always felt better, physically and mentally, when I walked Lanie every day.
I still feel better when I walk as much as I can. When I get back from a walk, no matter how upset or stressed I was before I went out, I am refreshed and relaxed. New ideas spring up and problems solve themselves while I ramble around the neighborhood or run errands on foot. I believe in the power of getting out on my own two feet and walking.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.