In the same week I heard on the radio that the key to health was, “owning a dog and a good pair of walking shoes” an old pal, his middle age heft increasing, reported being prescribed a hound by his family doctor.
That walking, more than a diet of mashed flax and booboo berries, or twelve hours a week at the gym on the glute-jammer, is the key to health, and that a restless mutt in the house is one of the few things that will guarantee you’ll do so should be news to no one. Less understood is how a dog will show you how a walk is properly done and further, if you heed its canine ways, how your mental health will improve as much as your cardiovascularprospects with each step you take.
The first lesson is that every walk, even along a commonly trodden way, is new. In fact, monitoring the subtle changes in a daily route can be more meditative than breaking new trail. Dogs never tire of the same route because it is never the same walk.
The walk itself should be everything, done for its own sake, not for exercise, not out of obligation and definitely never to get somewhere. That you might have a destination is not a concern, but needing one doesn’t work. The experience is about what you take in; simple sights, sounds, and smells. Walking in company is fine and conversation (the quality of which is improved by perambulation), is no hazard. But nothing will sort your head quite like a stroll with only your dog for company.
Checking your phone is pretty much the only thing that can completely and irretrievably shag up a good walk. If you’re going to fixate on your devices you might as well be home in your pyjamas as out in the country.
The matter of “a good pair of walking shoes” is complicated on the Avalon.
You require high rubber boots, “Bayman-Go-Fasters” we used to say, to contend with the muck and the melt-swollen brooks and the snow and slush. These are rarely comfortable or flattering. A tall and slender woman can look smart in leggings and a pair of Hunters but any doughy dude north of 20 years in rubber boots and track pants invariably has a “between gigs” aspect.
You will, sometime in our beastly seasons, find yourself facing a path of water-covered ice as slick as motor oil and calculate you must crawl lest you go off on your arse. You need, as dogs demonstrate, claws on your footwear.
We are blessed in this foggy burgh with the urban pedestrian routes the Johnson Foundation restored and maintain and the genius of the East Coast Trail on our margins. Our air is clean, the views inspiring, few on earth have as many enchanting options afoot.
Diogenes The Cynic said “it is solved by walking.” Considering Newfoundland and Labrador’s current cargo of mindbenders we should all be taking to shanks’ mare. By other means we have a tendency to go in circles.