Go to the dogs

Day 43: Gone to the dogs

(iPhone photo #43 in my 2012 365+1 project)

My rule of the day for walking your way to better health and better moods is to make friends with the neighborhood dogs (especially if you live in a neighborhood without leash laws like I do).

This guy is the old man of my neighborhood. He doesn’t move like he used to, but he hasn’t given up. Every day he ambles down the street and sits staring at a little yappy poodle until he decides to amble home again. Dogs are social creatures. This is why you should get to know them. They want to know you. If you are shy and socially awkward like me, that is not always true of human beings.

In The Psychopath Test, someone makes a point about how psychopaths always have dogs because dogs are slavishly devoted to their people no matter how awful those people are. I don’t have a dog, so of course I spent a few months gloating over this factoid whenever I encountered someone gushing over how much his/her dog loved him/her.

I don’t have a dog because I’m too cheap to spring for a fence. If I had a fence, it would probably be full of dogs. I happen to love dogs. I love them more than people.

Despite that fact, I’m still shy of meeting new dogs wandering loose down my street. You just never know. They might lick your hand, or they might sniff your butt, or they might follow you back to your house and eat your trash. They might also growl and chase.

There’s this one black dog down the street that came out every day to meet me as I walked near his house. He jumped around and barked and followed me a little ways down the street. He was getting to be a problem. Finally, I decided I’d had enough of the barking, and I stopped one day to pat him on the head. Turns out that was all he wanted. Now when I go by his house, he runs out, I pat him on the head, and he goes right back to his porch without making an issue of it. If only everything in life could be this simple.

Dogs are good for the spirit because — as long as they are properly cared for — they are unfailingly cheerful and friendly. Every day is a whole new reason to be excited for the chance to run and sniff and jump and chew. If I took more time to run and sniff and jump, maybe I’d be more excited to face the world too.

Make friends with the dogs you meet along your path. This will relieve you of unnecessary fear and irritation, and it will provide you with some moments of friendliness you may not find anywhere else.

Today I walked five miles and spoke to eight dogs. I’ve had worse days than that before and no doubt will again.