Miriam Ahern and myself got talking about our morning walks with our dogs. We compared the difference to walking in the city and walking in the country and realised we both use this time for thinking and planning the day ahead. So we thought we’d collaborate and write a blog post about it – and get to show off some pics too.
Miriam in the City
The most productive hour of my day is when I take my young Beagle, Pippin, for our early-morning walk. Firstly, I get to chat with my teenage daughter, Hazel, as we accompany her to her school. Secondly, I get a good hour’s exercise done early in the day and return to my home office energised and ready for work. Thirdly, I have a well-behaved, happy dog for the rest of the day. The icing on the cake – I get a nice healthy chunk of thinking-time to myself.
We leave around the same time every morning. Standard kit includes poo-bags, treats and a small bottle of water – all for Pip. The treats are my insurance that Pip will actually come back when I call her. She appreciates the water after she’s had a manic run with the other dogs in the park. The poo-bags…..did you know that people who walk their dogs in the city know where every rubbish bin is located along their route?
I never bring my mobile phone or MP3 player. I enjoy the morning sounds too much, both on the streets and in the park. This morning, for example, I saw the commuters around me giggling just before I heard a driver, stuck in the traffic with his window open, belting out 10cc’s Dreadlock Holiday at the top of his voice. A precious little gift of amusement to all who heard him.
I often envy Sian and her pack their lovely cross-country hikes. However, Pip and I do make the most of what we have. Our route takes us through our local suburban ‘village’, past the school and then on to a nice big wooded park where dogs are allowed off-lead at that hour. I love the chat with Hazel during the first part of our walk – although we do have to stop now and again to let Pip catch up with her ‘peemail’ at certain favoured lamp-posts.
When we turn off the main road on to the street leading to the school gates, the pavements are awash with hurrying young students in green uniforms. Pip loves this part as she usually gets lots of adoring attention and she seems to really enjoy being part of the scurrying green pack for a while. When the pack turns in to the school, it’s just Pip and I and we pick up the pace a bit. Just a short while later we’re at the park gates.
Pip immediately scampers off searching for other dogs to play with, grey squirrels to chase or interesting new smells to track. Being a Beagle-hound she’s a martyr to her nose! Now comes my best thinking time as I walk the park’s perimeter. Sometimes, if I find I need to think a business issue through, I’ll actually defer it until I’m on my walk when I can give it a good, uninterrupted shake-out. If I have to write something, I often use the time on my walk to plan the structure and content. Sometimes I don’t set out to think about anything particular and am often amazed at the ideas (some good ones too!) that seem to come out of nowhere.
Walking in a city park also brings the opportunity to really notice, and appreciate, the changing seasons. At the time of writing the paths are peppered with fallen hazelnuts and chestnuts. Just the other day I noticed a woman lurking in the bushes. At first, I thought her behaviour a bit creepy but on closer (but discrete} inspection I discovered that she had found a lovely blackberry patch and was carefully plucking the bulging berries and popping them into a jam-jar in her handbag – less than half a mile from Dublin city centre! I’ll definitely be keeping a close eye on that blackberry patch next year – after all, in town or in country, finders, keepers!
Sian in the Country
My mornings nearly always start with a walk through the fields around my home with my three dogs, Monty, Max and Morgan, and strangely enough Bruce the cat comes too. It’s only about 40 minutes but as I’m normally working from home I call it the commute to my job, so it’s not straight from bedroom to desk. This is also the main exercise I will do (yes I’m lazy) and the fresh air is a great healthy start to the day and I actually feel energised. I hated walking before I had the dogs but now I mainly enjoy watching their enjoyment.
The dogs are rarely on a lead and never around here so they are free to run around. They absolutely love attention from visitors but we never see anyone on our walks. Apart from rabbits, hares and birds that they flush out from hiding places it’s just me, the dogs and Bruce. There are a few different routes we can take – left, right or straight on from my gate and we can walk a full circle around the fields. It is always different and the dogs keep me amused whether competing to catch sticks, checking on where Bruce has got lost in the high grass or paddling in the river. I may only walk a couple of kilometres but the dogs probably do five times that with their laps around the fields.
I don’t listen to music; the sound of silence in the countryside is so relaxing and helps me to clear my mind ready for the day ahead. I always find it difficult to switch my mind off and a friend suggested I use the morning walks to sort of power down – away from the laptop and phone. I struggle with it so I compromise and do my best to empty my mind on the outward journey and plan my day on the way back. The peace really does help me to just concentrate on the beauty of my surroundings and be grateful for it all. I’m always thankful for the happiness of my animals, watching them running around exploring new scents. It puts me in a positive frame of mind which is a great start to the day.
On the return journey I unleash my brain to start planning the day ahead. As I do a few different jobs for various clients I may be fitting in 2 or 3 in one day. If my accountant hat is on for the day then I structure what has to be done and the order I will approach it. When I have writing on the agenda then I think about what I will be writing. I find my iPhone handy then for recording my thoughts or sentences I will use. I always have the iPhone on my walks in case I slip and hurt myself – unless the dogs do a Lassie, no one would know for a long time. I also need it for photos of the scenery and stupid things the dogs do. Luckily I rarely get calls at that time in the morning so no interruptions. Planning my day like this takes the pressure off and I’m not running around like a headless chicken from one task to the next when I’m home.
I completely love where I live and can honestly say I’ve never been happier. I have written before about enjoying being alone and not being lonely. I’m not sure I could say that if I didn’t have the dogs and cats to keep me company and constantly amused. I don’t envy Miriam with her walks in the city apart from one thing – I’d love to be able to pop into a shop en route. And of course the company of Pippin, who has been to visit here and became Morgan’s BFF.
Hopefully this post shows that just a simple walk with your dog; in the town or country; can be a productive start to the day. How do you start yours?