Very Important Walking

The first day of March always carries such hope. Weather-wise, the past week has been awful. The cold is only a small part of the nastiness going on outside my door. When it is not snowing it is raining and when it is not raining it is hailing. This isn’t the gently falling stuff either. This is the hard, blowing, stinging kind of precipitation that no sensible human goes out in if she doesn’t have to.

And yet…

Every day at six am out I go.

Every night at six pm out I go.

Why? I mean, really, why?

It’s not the complete end of the world if Shiva misses a walk or two. She won’t curl up and die. She hates the blowing wet just as much as I do. Half the time in poor weather, if I accidentally drop the leash, she turns and heads for home.

And yet…

When we decided we were ready to adopt a dog, I knew I wanted to wait for spring. In spring the weather is much more appealing. If I was going to establish a solid walking routine – something I deeply believed in – I knew I had to start in a more palatable climate. I hoped by the time winter arrived my body would be so used to a strict schedule I wouldn’t find walking in minus twenty temperatures a huge chore. At least I was half right. There are days I do find it a bit of a chore. For whatever reason, I do it anyway. I feel much better after it is done than I would if I had wimped out and stayed inside. Even if I can’t exactly feel my toes for the next three days.

Why?

Beats me.

On some of my darkest days, knowing I had at least gotten up and walked my dog was a point of pride. Sometimes, knowing Shiva needed to get outside, was the only thing getting me out of bed. It still feels good to know that every day, by seven am, I have completed something off my to-do list. It feels good to have a plan.

As many of you know, I am a fairly lazy person at heart. Before this nutjob of a canine entered my life I was more than thrilled to spend my nights on the couch, reading and watching television. However, after we brought her home, it is like a synapse in my brain just snapped into action. A synapse I didn’t know existed.

As I have said countless times before – and probably will again – Shiva’s first six months with us were a special kind of pain. Walking her was the opposite of fun. She barked, she growled, she lunged, she tried to eat garden gnomes, and she seemed pretty pissed off that anyone else in the world dared to exist. Walking her was freaking hard. After several particularly nasty episodes, culminating with me sobbing in my dark bedroom, it would have been easier to give up. It would have been natural. No one would have been surprised. In fact, some people would have said it was for the best.

But I didn’t. Even though I have never hesitated to bail when things get too tough, this one time, I didn’t. In fact, a few of the sentences I remember typing to my dog trainer, long before we started a journey of recovery, were, “I can’t give up on her. I won’t give up on her. But other than that, I’ve got nothing.”

In my mind, Shiva was MY dog the instant I signed the adoption form. Her life, her needs, were now my responsibility. Well, mine and my husband’s. Taking her back to the shelter was not an option. It just wasn’t even on the table. If such a thing was even hinted at, I would go into a rage. There was no reason we couldn’t make it work. No reason I could live with anyway.

And if we just couldn’t do it? If we had exhausted all options and Shiva’s needs were just beyond us? Then it would be my job to find someone who could help her. A better owner with more resources. Someone who would be able to understand what she required. Thank goodness it didn’t come to that. I have complete sympathy for those who are forced to give up a pet because it just isn’t working for either human or animal. The idea makes me want to weep.

Nevertheless, one someone has signed the dotted line, I do believe the animal has then become that person’s property. Therefore, the animal’s problems are now the owner’s problems. Not the shelter’s. Except for cases of severe illness, I just don’t get it. A dog isn’t a t-shirt that doesn’t fit quite right and thus is returned to the store. It baffles and saddens me that a few people seem to have this view.

But I digress. Again. This was supposed to be a post about dog-walking. For me, I guess the two go together. From the beginning, I made a commitment to Shiva. I promised to care for her and protect her. I promised to feed her better than the street garbage she lived off for too long. I promised her she would never have to wonder where her home was again. Most importantly, I promised to walk her at least twice a day.

Fresh chicken in my pocket and she'd rather eat bird seed

It is the least I can do. I guess I can add “tenacity” next to “patience” on the endless list of things Shiva has taught me.

22 thoughts on “Very Important Walking

  1. Shiva is one lucky girl to have you! It breaks my heart when people “have to” give away their pets too, but I want to slug them when they give them up because they are not convenient. I hate when someone adopts a pet thinking that there will be no work involved, and when they realize life with an animal is not just fun and games gives up on the animal, and return them. Animals are living creatures, not impulse purchases….. UGH!

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  2. I think you need to change the category of your post to “unselfish rant.”

    It sounds like you’ve discovered something known in various religious disciplines for centuries–the importance of doing hard things on a regular basis. Of course, a Benedictine monk who gets up for prayer at 4 a.m. or a Buddhist who prostrates himself around the boundaries of a holy site don’t get a fuzzy dog to cuddle with at the end. 🙂

    I know you’ve found all the hard work worth it. I hope you remember to feel proud of yourself as well as of Shiva.

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  3. Shiva is a lucky girl to have you or I should say you’re so lucky to have Shiva. Both of you are a great team! Enjoy the walks and have fun with Shiva, you’re her protector and she needs you.

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  4. When I didn’t have my fence, I walked my two dogs 3-5 times a day; they had to pee and do their business. I couldn’t not walk them as they needed to be outside on leash – at least for me. Now, with a fence and many more dogs, I don’t walk as often and I need to, not only for the dogs but for myself as well – it is good to stick to a self imposed task particularly if it involves another sentient creature; the exercise, both physical and mental for both of us, is welcome and needed.
    Justus, where are you , boy? Let’s go walking!
    Thanks, Kristine – you always make my day.

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  5. Man can I relate. Our Best Friend is still a nightmare to walk. The minute he sees the leash (or hears the poop bags rustle), he starts barking like mad. I make him lie in bed and try to make him relax, but I get half-an-hour of whining, yipping noised, punctuated with the occassional loud bark. And he pulls like mad. We had a Halti (gentle lead), which made a huge difference and which he managed to rip apart. And just when I start getting a routine going, something messes it up: e.g., home today with two sick kids– dog is not likely to get walked!

    Unlike you, nothing can pull me from my bed at 6:00 a.m. in -20 weather to walk the dog. And in the evening there’s dinner and homework and bath time and a hundred other things. Once spring comes, I may be able to get some morning walks in, but in the dark winter? Not happening.

    Because he was a foster who never left, at least I can’t blame myself for “choosing” the wrong dog– he chose us, and we’re just stuck with each other. Sigh.

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  6. Yeesh. I can barely pull myself out of bed at 8 AM!

    I love walking my dogs – more than almost anything (pizza and ice cream are in hot pursuit). But now that I’m walking dogs for a living – walking for 6-7 hours a day on average – I get home and I’m *exhausted*. It’s definitely taken a toll on the walking I do with my guys, and it makes me feel horrible. So I started hiking with them on the weekends. I figured they’d enjoy a 4 hour off leash adventure more than a 1-2 hour ramble on concrete, even if they got it less often. We don’t have a yard, so they still go out 3-4 times a day, but in this gross weather it’s often not much more than a block or two. And now that our local park is off limits (dog attack location, blegh), it’s the only open space they have. Emma doesn’t help much either, once she’s done her business it’s all I can do to stop her from dragging me back into the house!

    You and Shiva are so lucky to have each other – keep it up. We’re all proud of you over here!

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  7. Don’t you sell yourself short, lady. You are doing an amazing job! You are an amazing dog mom and Shiva is so incredibly lucky to have you!

    We’ve been taking our dogs for more walks since our backyard closely resembles a swamp and it is definitely a struggle since I usually can’t feel my hands after about 10 minutes even with gloves, but it’s worth it. And t-minus 6 weeks until we get back from our honeymoon and I can enroll Mak in training class. I found an animal behaviorist whose business is called “No Bad Dogs” and she endorses positive reinforcement and I really like that. So close!

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  8. I think if we had other options, like a yard, I don’t know if we would be walking the pooches all winter. I know what you mean about the responsibility part though. I was the one who made the choice to adopt Miss M, and I lived alone, and she was a nut. There were a couple of times that I thought I had made a huge mistake, but you’re right…I just figured out how to help her and I think we’re both better for it. March always gives me hope too.

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  9. Part of the reason John agreed to getting dogs was because he knew it would get me outside, rain or shine. I am a TOTAL homebody- but I will take these dogs out no matter what!

    Last night I was walking the dogs and it started to snow. OH MY GOD it was hilarious. Mickey kept on trying to bolt home and Kayloo kept on trying to wipe her face off with her paw while still walking. Walking with that heavy snow soaking my jeans sucked, but I was laughing pretty much the whole way.

    Dogs are awesome. Even when they make you walk through horrid weather 🙂

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  10. Wow, 6AM? I’m tucked into my bed and happily snoozing then. What any dog needs is a schedule, they know what to expect and it keeps them happy and grounded. Good for you that you are keeping up on your promises and taking dog ownership so seriously.

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  11. It’s been so cold here too. I try to walk everyday come rain, shine or snow, but just lately I’ve been putting it off. If only my spoiled little cats would allow me to get a dog 🙂 I would have that big push it needs to get me out every day! You are both having the best time and good exercise all round 🙂 Enjoyed the post!

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  12. You are VERY tenacious! If I were a dog, I’d want someone like you to look after me, that’s for sure 🙂

    We go out in the rain, even when it’s heavy. But the kind of blizzard conditions that you guys walk out in….I can;t say for sure, but I think I’d be looking for ways to put the dogs in suspended animation for the season.

    Excuse me also…did you say H and not PH? Am I behind something here? :p

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  13. I am so much like you in the walking department, although I’m often forced to give it up in winter at times for health related reasons. I just love getting out and walking with them, though! It’s like a gift I give myself of time to just relax and enjoy them.

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  14. I know people would have brought Oly back, she sounds like Shiva. She still is more than most would ever put up with, but I know exactly what you mean.

    The same thing happened with Stella. The minute she was in my car, she was mine forever. No one can convince me to send her back. No one.

    I love this line so much, ‘“I can’t give up on her. I won’t give up on her. But other than that, I’ve got nothing.” It is my dog owning philosophy as well.

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  15. I can relate to this. I am basically lazy and not naturally inclined to taking walks. But like you, I do it for my dog. Kelly loves her walks, she’s like a different dog when we’re out on our walks–enthusiastic and excited. At home she’s a couch potato who naps all day!

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  16. I too understand your pain and frustration. I don’t understand how someone can give up on an animal, like it is broken without exhausting all possibilities. I have been there many times of having nothing to go on but knowing I wouldn’t give up on my dogs especially when I was told by professionals my only option was to give some of them up. NOT AN OPTION.

    Shiva is blessed to have you. What are the possibilites someone else would have traded her back in? You needed each other. You have an unbreakable bond that you will protect forever. I love your gut honesty. Integrity is something not everyone has. And that is just what Shiva needed.

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  17. Congratulations on “sticking” to the walks Kristine. I find it really does help me feel better to get some fresh air … Daisy would much rather stay in bed!

    Like you, I committed to Daisy from the signing of the adoption form. So we had to make it work. There was no way I was going to move out and give her the house!

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  18. I can completely relate to your post. I never intended to walk my dogs every day (I am just as happy on the couch with a book too), but I made a commitment to them and I intend to stick to it. Like you, I haven’t really wanted to get up and go out in some of the weather we’ve had this year, but I find that I am more motivated knowing my dogs are happy and got a good walk (and yes, it is a chore for me sometimes too). The weather has made it hard this year simply because the weather has been way too cold for dogs or humans and because we’ve had so many snowstorms that it has been dangerous to be out where cars are and too dangerous to drive to the dog park. but, I do enjoy it most days that the ones I don’t.

    I know that everyone always says this kind of stuff, but I do mean it. Shiva is really lucky to have you. Not only for sticking with her through the tough times, but for also being so dedicated to her walks. I have met many a dog at the shelter who was so fat they could hardly walk because they got more food than exercise, and because their new owners didn’t have the fortitude to stick with the dog and work with them through their behavioral issues. For those reasons, I do think Shiva is a lucky girl. Her mom is pretty awesome don’t you think?

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