We take imperfect walks. Late, twins-should-be-in-bed walks. Did-you-bring-the-bottles/No-I-thought-you-did walks. Walks before and after work. When the twins were very small we took walks because they were only quiet when Kirsty was wearing them, so she would take the babies and I would hobble around the local park, from one bench to the next.
All of our pockets are stuffed with poo bags. We might forget nappies but we’ve never forgotten to bring a bag. My handbag for work has dozens of them, plus treats and a spare lead in case I ever encounter a stray. You might say that I’m a dog person. The twins sort of know ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ and they definitely know ‘come’, although none of their commands are as well engrained as Josephine’s.
She’s the perfect dog. It’s not that she reads my mind, I know that – it’s that we tend to have the same bright ideas at the same time. Or else, her plan turns out to be a better one than mine anyway.
During the working week, her walks are dictated by my plans. We all walk to the train station, then they walk home without me. At the end of the day, they meet me. This walk takes her through the local park and she has a chance to say hi to her friends, to Tim the Lurcher and the Border Terrorists and all of the other dogs whose names I know (but not their owners). We all call each other by the name of our dogs, Muttley’s Mum and Tim’s Dad and I suppose that Kirsty and I are both Josephine’s Mum. I don’t know how they differentiate between us, if they need to.
But on the weekends, Josephine gets to choose. She knows her favourite paths and where she wants to go: to the park, to the pond, to the common or the nature reserve. Past Costa for a cappuccino for mums – she loves the foam and we shouldn’t, but sometimes we let her lick a little from our finger – and then she chooses left or right and the walk is decided. Once off of the road, off comes the lead. Josephine has a perfect recall and walks beautifully to heel when asked so I always feel safe allowing her to roam freely. She loves to venture out a little bit ahead, to sniff for rabbits, to skirt around the mud and to find the best patches of sunlight in which to stretch out and wait for us to trudge up the hill.
Recently she’s started to play. She had a traumatic past before she was mine and I thought that she would never learn to play but it’s coming to her gradually. She makes the most fearsome noises and then stops and looks terribly sheepish. It’s sweet but also a bit sad.
It can be hard to motivate yourself out after a long day of wrangling children – or worse, colleagues! Sometimes we take walks that we cut short even though we know that we shouldn’t. Sometimes I fall asleep thinking guiltily about how much happier Josephine probably was when her day was our priority. It can be hard to be a dog mum and a human baby mum when there are only so many hours. If you feel the same way, you might be interested in Direct Line’s Walkies app, which tracks your walk so that you don’t have to. It records the distance that you’ve travelled as well as estimating approximately how many calories your pet has burned. Josephine doesn’t need to lose weight but as an older dog it’s important to me that we maintain her fitness and respond quickly to any lack of energy because it could be indicative of something more serious.
I can see this being a really useful app for the busy dog-guardian. There’s so much to think about in the day and it certainly comes in handy when an app can automate some of the thinking for you. Direct Line run the Fit Fred dog blog that illustrates this with case studies and further information.
Direct Line have offered me £100 in Leisure vouchers to give away to one lucky reader. If you’d like a chance to win, tell me about your favourite dog walk in the comments below (if you don’t have a dog, feel free to pretend that you do!) and for extra entries, complete the Rafflecopter below.