July 20, 2012

Learning to Walk

You would think that walking is something we do well. One foot/paw in front of the other, moving forward, propelling ourselves through neighborhoods and along wooded trails doing our job of walking dogs. I must admit that I’m pretty good at it unless it’s really hot out or I have to wear what I call my “Man-Bra” — a harness that fits wide around my chest.

Gretchen’s pretty good at it too, but we each have our issues. In addition to my harness, walking up some hills is hard for me because I don’t have very strong butt muscles. I’m working on it, but still I have to push really hard to make it up the hills and if the weather is warm, going up hills is even harder than usual.

For Gretchen, the walking becomes difficult because she has really crappy feet. There’s no other way to say it. Her feet cause her problems and keeping them in good health is always a challenge.

She’s seen numerous “body workers” — massage and physical therapists, doctors, specialists — and all of them look at her and say, “Hm, very interesting.” Of course, very interesting doesn’t make her feet feel any better. She’s got expense orthotics, supportive shoes that she purchases every 4 months, special socks, and a whole bunch of weird “therapy” equipment like spiky balls, toe separators, and a whole list of exercises to go with them.

Still, there are days when her feet are so painful, she can hardly walk down the stairs in the morning. I feel her pain and that’s why when one bodywork offered interesting advice, my ears pricked up. She said, “You need to stop going. You need to walk here.”

When Gretchen told me what she said, I cocked my head. “What does she mean?”

“I’m not exactly sure,” admitted Gretchen, “but I think it has to do with always trying to walk to a destination, which pushes my body forward into a position that puts lots of strain on my feet. I need to walk here, not there.”

I thought about this all week. How many times in our lives, whether we’re humans or canines, do we move forward toward something trying to be there instead of here. Sure, there’s all sorts of slogans reminding us to live in the now, to be present in the moment, to enjoy the journey and not the destination, but who knew that this advice was as good for your physical body as it was for your spiritual one?

I certainly didn’t. And with all I’ve been learning recently about my own ailments and how they are grounded in my poor conformation, my head’s been swirling trying to piece it all together. On top of all these swirling thoughts, we also had a scare this week when my best friend Monty spent the night in the ER – a piece of bone lodged in his GI tract.

I know, I know…there’s really no connection between my poor conformation, Gretchen’s crappy feet, her body worker’s advice and Monty’s GI obstruction, but for some reason they all seem related to that idea that we must walk here.

So here is my attempt to wrap my curly doodle head around it all…

Here is here and there is there. But when you get there, it’s here and because you’re so focused on there, you always miss the here.

To stop going is to make every attempt to walk in the here and even though I still struggle trying to understand how walking (which implies movement) can be done here (which implies being stationary or not moving), I can tell that when Gretchen tries to walk here she feels less pain in her feet.

…she also walks slower, which is a bit annoying for me, but perhaps as it should be.

Here is BIG. By this I mean that it’s a large space to occupy. I never realized this before because I was always trying to get there, which seemed BIG but it’s actually quite small. And certainly compared to here it’s miniscule. Here is spacious, expansive…there’s a lot of room to breathe here and frankly, if you spend a lot of time here you can get kind of lost in it, which I think is a good thing but I haven’t been here long enough to really know for sure.

Here is got a beauty to it that you can’t find there. This is a hard one to explain, but maybe it has to do with this idea that stopping going means you have start noticing here instead of focusing on what’s there at there. Here smells sweeter, tastes more nutritious, feels calmer; it’s full of colors and sounds that I’ve never noticed before and when I spend time here it feels more real. It’s actually something I can touch versus the thought of there which is what we are always moving toward, but never really get to.

Does your head hurt yet? Mine does.

Still, the more aware I am about here I must say that it’s still elusive. I have a hard time staying here because the nature of our work means we always need to somewhere, which is another word for there, in my humble opinion.

What strikes me as particularly odd though is how being here makes Gretchen’s feet feel better because really, here is sort of a metaphysical state and how the metaphysical works on anatomy is a topic I need a lot more time with to completely grasp. But the fact is, Gretchen’s feet feel much better when she walks here and for that I am happy.

So this week has been a lot about learning to walk. Not just Gretchen learning to walk, but my learning to walk with her. This has been especially difficult because of my recent illnesses. I’m feeling much much better, but I’m still taking medications and as much as I am a good boy about them all, when I hear Gretchen shake the pill bottle, I run the other way. She thinks this means that I don’t like her anymore when in actuality it’s just a reaction on my part. I do not like taking medications and I can hardly wait until they are done.

I’m also learning to walk with Monty again. His time in the ER not only made him smell funny (just like I did when I got home from there), but he’s been rather tired since his stay. I understand it, but still it’s all a reminder that Monty is getting older and therefore can’t walk with the same pace or for the same distances as I can. But I guess that means I get to practice walking here more with him and not focus so much on getting there…

…which gives me another ah-ha: Being here with Monty is better than ever getting somewhere else, isn’t it?

But it’s hard to balance our dog walking business with this here and there matter. Our schedule isn’t as clear cut as most. Some days we walk one dog and then other days it’s four. Some days I get to go on every walk and some days I don’t get to walk with any of our clients.

This was true this week as we took on two new clients – Kali and Carter – who are from the same family. I haven’t met them yet, but from what Gretchen tells me they are very sweet and very beautiful. She also says that they are both very good about being here and she gave me this story as an example: They were walking down to the park with Carter out front and Kali by Gretchen’s side (Carter is apparently a bit more outgoing). Anyway, Carter stopped to smell a scent in the grass and when Gretchen looked at him, there was a calico cat not 6 inches from his face. Apparently neither Kali nor Carter (who was almost on top of the cat) noticed and after their sniff, they sauntered on down the road with Gretchen giggling all the way.

This is truly a here story…don’t ya think? I mean, if it had been me, I would have seen the cat there (or at best smelled it) and craziness would have ensued, but Carter was so intent on being in the scent at the end of his nose, at being here in other words, he had no clue a cat was there!


I am very much a there kind of guy. So is Roux. She likes to go go go and going anywhere makes her very happy. Unless there’s thunder (like we had this week) and then she just wants to be there…and as far away from here as she can get. I understand this as I’m not a big fan of thunder either, though I did a very good job practicing being here for Roux.

Tyson and Woobie are both very good at being here. It surprises me with both of them, but Tyson in particular. He’s a nervous fellow like me and sometimes our nerves make us want to be anywhere but here. Yet on a walk, Tyson is right next to Gretchen walking in the here with the best of them. It’s very impressive.

Of course, if there are treats involved he’s really here!

Woobie is always excited to go there, but she is really great being here. This is perfectly illustrated whenever we go to the lake and Woobie wanders into the lake for a swim. She doesn’t need a toy to chase or even an invitation. She just walks in, swims around and when she’s done, she sits in the sun and waitshere until it’s time to go somewhere else.

Of course, I’m not like that at all. I want to swim for a toy. I want to race around the shore like a crazy man. I want to bark at the crows and shake all the water onto Gretchen’s camera and backpack.

But this week we had a surprise at the lake. My friend Griffey came by!

Griffey is the oldest of my friends — she’s 15 years old! — and that hasn’t stopped her in the least. She walked down to the lake with her grandma and stood by sunbathing Woobie like they were long, lost friends. They were truly a picture of here…so much so that I had to stop and really breathe it in. “This is what here looks like,” I told Gretchen and she had to agree — unexpected moments when you are forced to stop going and take in the beauty of the world around you!


So when we saw this heron…

…we stopped going, stood in the here, and didn’t give a second glance at what was waiting over there.

Funny how even my feet felt better this week!

Until next week when we will continue to walk here!




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