The reason I got a dog was so people wouldn’t think I was psychotic when I was in public.

It was late spring, 2006.  I had just gotten my master’s degree the year before, and miraculously landed a full-time archaeology job in a small environmental planning company, despite having only 4 months of field experience.  For the first time, I had moved to a new town for a job, and had rented my own place.  I had never had a whole apartment to myself before, so I needed to buy living room furniture, things like a couch and coffee tables and the like.

And then it happened.  I was standing in the housewares section of Kmart in Redding, CA, trying to decide on a coffee table, figuring out which one was the right size, shape, and price for my living room, when I realized the woman to my right was staring at me.

That’s because she was hearing something like this: “Is that too tall?  I don’t know.  I like the black one better, but it’s expensive.  Let’s keep going and see what else they have.”

Yup, that’s right, I was talking to myself.  Out loud.  I might have been able to pull this off if I owned a bluetooth headset, but alas, I don’t.  I was just acting like a raving madwoman in the middle of Kmart.

I had been wanting a dog for several years, but this really put me over the edge.  I obviously needed someone, anyone, to talk to.

The responsibility of caring for something other than a cat or a goldfish was daunting, but I decided there were a lot of positive benefits to owning a dog, aside from simple companionship.  Top of the list was fitness.  Don’t dogs need to be walked every day?  Then I would get some exercise and become a walker!

the first day I had her!

So I went to the shelter, and found an adorable 7-month-old black mutt who I named Cara, and the rest is history.

And so was the idea of walking a dog every day.

It turned out, that first apartment of mine was only 3 blocks from the local dog park.  And Cara is not a fetch kind of dog, despite the presumed black lab in her ancestry.  She’s a chase me dog.  So, in order to tire out this 7-month-old to the point where I could sleep at night, taking her up to the park and standing there for an hour or two while she ran around with the other dogs was really the best solution.  Plus, she got socialized with both other dogs and other people.  Ans as it turned out, I got to socialize too, since that’s where T and I met.  But I wasn’t getting much in the way of exercise while I stood there and watched her run around like her tail was on fire.  At least not during the week.

As part of our courtship, T and I would take the dogs and walk a stretch of the Sacramento River Trail on the weekends.  But that was only 1 or 2 nights a week.  When we moved in together, we pretty much kept the same schedule.

Diezel at the FS Park

Then we moved from Redding to Chico, CA.  We lived a short ways off a narrow but very busy road, with no sidewalks, so walking the dogs in the neighborhood simply wasn’t an option.  Fortunately, there was another dog park about 10 miles away, and it was just about the most perfect dog park you can imagine.  The Forest Service had opened up its groves of seed bank trees to the public, and within the 60 acres of trees there was a mile-long paved loop through the center that followed a creek, as well as several unpaved paths through and around the groves of trees.  And the dogs could run off-leash the whole time.  Even in the 115 degree summer heat, you could walk in the shade, and the dogs could stop regularly to swim and drink from the creek.  But, again, it was pretty much a weekends-only thing.

hot and dusty in Eagle Mt.

Then we moved to Eagle Mountain, UT.  It seemed a pretty ideal location for walking the dogs — a residential community with lots of winding streets, paved foot/bike paths, communal athletic fields a few blocks away, and a 5-minute drive would take you onto dirt roads along wheat fields, where the dogs could run off-leash.  But there were so many kids running around all the time, it was hard to walk two dogs on the neighborhood without causing a commotion.  There were no other dogs to play with at the athletic fields (and did I mention Cara doesn’t care to fetch?) so most often all of us would walk down and then just lay in the grass for a while, instead of getting any real exercise.  And if we took them onto the back roads on the weekends, especially in the summer, the hot sun and dust from the roads combined with the lack of water made it difficult for any of us to enjoy the walk.  And the nearest dog park was 30 minutes away, with no shade.

Now we have moved again, this time to North Salt Lake.  Again, it’s a little residential community, with some foot/bike paths.  It took us a while, but we finally found a small dog park about 5 miles away where we can take Cara and Diezel on the weekends.  But, until the weather got a little better recently, we were usually the only ones there, which meant more sitting around than exercise.  And when the weather was bad, we didn’t even bother trying.  I know they definitely haven’t been getting enough exercise.  Sure, I can rationalize that the vet told us Cara’s extra belly fat may have saved her life a few months ago, but I know in the long run it’s really bad for her health, and I want to have her around for a good, long time.  Not to mention, since I’ve been home and glued to a computer all day, I haven’t been getting enough exercise either. 

But today is the third day in a row that I have grabbed the dogs and the leashes, and taken us all for an afternoon walk.  There are a lot less kids in this neighborhood, so it’s easier to manage.  Plus, part of the walking path follow the edges of a marshy area, with fencing on both sides, so even though it’s posted as leash-only, I let them run off leash for a little while.  After the first day’s walk, they were both so sore I needed to give each of them a Bufferin to keep them from limping.  That just proved to me that they needed the exercise even more than I did!  I know, when I get another full-time job we’ll probably be back to weekends-only in terms of exercise.  But it’s nice to know I finally get the benefit of daily walks with my dogs.

UPDATE: It has rained and/or snowed for the past 3 days, so no walks.  And it looks like the bad weather will continue through the weekend.  So much for being on a roll! *sigh*