I almost lost the love of my life for $750. At the time I didn’t know that our future relationship would become such an important part of my life. I just thought, “$1500 is an unreasonable price to pay.” At the time I had two mortgages and not enough income to pay for them. I didn’t know when the old house would sell. Paying $1500 without a guaranteed future in those circumstances seemed absurd.
It’s eight years later and I love my wife. She’s the best. She did not cost $1500. I’m talking about my dog, Paddy which is the Irish short version for his full name “Paddington Bear Dog”. He also did not cost $1500. In 2008 we started shopping in pet stores looking for Wheatens, Weimaraners, and Doodles. I was convinced I wanted a Weimaraner until I learned that they need several miles of running a day. I don’t run. That’s why I fight. I only run if I’m training for a fight or it’s less than a mile. Even with Weimaraners ruled out, I had reservations about getting a “Doodle”. It’s just not a manly dog breed name. You know your ego needs a check when your buying criteria for your most loyal companion boils down to “manliness”.
Fast forward to the pet store search in August. After finding nothing for weeks, we see a monster-sized Labradoodle scared to death in a small box with two other dogs. We carry him to the back of the store to play alone and find he just wants a little attention and a ball to chase. Then, we learn the price “$1500. Damn!” Sometimes, you shouldn’t test drive the car that’s twice your price. In this case I’m glad we did.
A month later we still hadn’t sold the house, money was tight, but we still wanted a dog. Really, we wanted that dog – Paddy. On Friday afternoon before Labor Day we spontaneously call the store to find out whether he’s still there. Maybe, they’ll give us a good price. The anticipation is torturous. “Is he still there? Well, is he?” Jackpot. We got Paddy. Apparently, people who shop at dog stores don’t like buying large thirty pound three month old dogs. At half price with food, cage, and supplies thrown in, Paddy was a steal. In retrospect I couldn’t put a price on him.
Paddy forces me to walk more, even on those off days when I just want to lay in bed. Paddy looks at me and says, “It’s raining! Why don’t we walk just for a few minutes and smell that awesome rain-air? You know what I’m talkin’ about.” Paddy negotiates on a sunny day, “I promise not to freak out in the car if we go to the park. It’s bright, warm, and you can smell the roses. Please!” Paddy just stares when it snows, “I was born part polar bear. I don’t care if you don’t have fur. Let’s go!”
I’m not recommending you get a dog to walk more. It’s a side benefit that taught me the benefits of a consistent walking practice. Prior to getting a dog I thought walking was a weak form of exercise. It’s slow. It’s long. It’s boring. Now I know that I just wasn’t paying attention.
Walking with Paddy taught me to appreciate simple joys – the connection of my feet to the ground, the smell of the air on a rainy day, the ‘caw’ of the crows flying overhead. I learned the best way to approach a friend you see unexpectedly on a walk is to jump up and down literally or at least in spirit. My dog changed my perspective.
You don’t need a dog to walk more, but having a friend always helps when starting a new habit. If you don’t have a dog, find a friend that likes to walk or volunteer to walk your friend’s dog while they’re away. You can learn the simple pleasure of walking more from a 4-legged or 2-legged friend that might change your life. Set an alarm for a time to walk more tomorrow. You can walk anywhere. You will feel better immediately. With or without your friends help you can use walking more as a gateway to better habits and a better life.
For tips on how to remind yourself to walk more and reward yourself, read part 2.
Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time. – Steven Wright