Strictly speaking there is no need for me to walk the dogs along the lanes. Between the garden, the adjoining piece of woodland I rent and fields I have permission to go in they could get enough exercise without me needing to own a lead! However there are good reasons to keep taking them out everyday for a road walk.
Firstly it is good for the dogs. Orchid the Lurcher is lazy and would much prefer to find a quiet, warm spot to curl up and snooze whilst Roo, the Kelpie x Collie, keeps me amused with a ball. On the lead she has to walk and Roo has to contain her enthusiasm.
Secondly it is good for me. Whatever the weather or my mood the dogs know it is time for a walk and insist that I take them. I have come across several reports recently confirming what I knew from experience – fresh air and exercise are good for me both physically and mentally. What is more, I notice things that are not easy to spot from a moving car like the first primroses or blackberries. At this time of year particularly I often take a basket with me and come home with hedgerow fruit for jams and jellies.
And it has wider benefits. Around here most people live down a driveway or farm track and most journeys have to be made by car. So we rarely see each other unless it is whizzing past each other in our cars. But when I am on foot I am more likely to see someone working in their garden or yard and stop to chat. Those driving past stop if they have time, wind down the window and pass the time of day. A few days ago a former neighbour saw me and stopped. We lost touch when she moved a few miles away so it was lovely to reconnect. And if someone new moves in I notice and put a welcome card through the door. Even people I do not know but who travel regularly at about the time I am out wave and smile at me. No doubt in their minds I am ‘that daft old bat in the hi-vis coat with the dogs’ but they recognise me. Given that my nearest neighbours are 100 yards away and all I can see of their house is a lighted window in winter when the trees are bare it would be very easy to become socially isolated here. I have lots of friends and use email to keep in touch with them but to build a local community involves meeting my neighbours – and walking the dogs enables me to do just that.