Dog Walking – Health and Obligation

Before W and I got a dog we thought long and hard about the implications and responsibilities inherent in a pet. Particularly the time and energy required to walk a dog – as a couple who both have jobs, joint problems and severe social anxiety this was not a minor consideration.

I know that even though our Rory boy is old he needs to get out of the house regularly and that proper exercise keeps him healthy physically and psychologically. Its good for us too.
I am currently aiming for 2 brisk 20 min walks for the boy a day (which if I do both gives me 20 mins of raised pulse in total) and although I know that some days without a walk or with just one 30-50 min walk are acceptable I also know they do none of us any good.
I know that walking regularly helps me keep my weight down, forces me to get fresh air and daylight to lift my mood and generally promotes my overall wellbeing.

It is my duty to walk my dog.

Its not easy. A cold or flu makes the energy vanish, a headache makes any kind of focus fade, the cold and wet weather (or a heavy shift) mean that my knees and back ache and every step hurts.
But far more harshly my desire to hide from people paralyses every step. When I was deeper in the throes of misery I would walk my anxiety, anger and suicidality off at 2 or 3am when the streets were empty. Even now every day it is a battle to step through the door. I am at my worst when I anticipate other people on the walk.. the 8am club of dogwalkers at the local park who in their very existence make me feel inadequate as a dog-owner and person; the schoolchildren heading home; the people with their real jobs heading to or from places of employment – all of them are torture. When leaving the safety of my bed is tricky, leaving the protection of my home is a battle and panic attacks are only just under the surface.

I know that it is good for me not to let my fear rule my life and I know that therefore walking my dog is good for me. But I worry that W sees none of these benefits since my obligation is stronger than hers – she works harder and doesn’t have the same opinion of what a dog of Rory’s age needs – so it doesn’t seem to help her out the house etc. Plus some days when I am too tired for the fight with myself I worry that I am a cruel person to bring a dog into my struggle; that I might in some way let my health impinge on my dog’s wellbeing.

I guess the point of this post is just a reminder that whilst a pet is a fantastic companion and brilliant motivation for exercise and social interaction sometimes the price in exhaustion is heavy and the ability to guilt-trip oneself is strong.
I need to remember that actually its fantastic even when its hard, that sometimes its ok to say “its your turn – I need a break” and that “I’m sorry boy, how about I pet you and you lick my toes and show me you love me regardless?” works too.

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