A couple of weeks ago, the family dog had to be put down (see ‘I’ve buried the dog’) and now it’s just me on my morning walks.  We have had three consecutive family dogs, spanning approximately 30 years, so walking without a dog is a new experience. I leave the house on the dot of 7am and aim to walk briskly for at least 40 minutes.  When Cleo was alive we had a favourite walk along a couple of country lanes and across fields near here. Sometimes we did this in a clockwise direction and sometimes anti-clockwise (to allow ourselves to unwind!). It was all delightful and trouble free.

Now, as a lone walker, I have encountered a number of problems.  Firstly, all the dog walkers I meet, who are used to counting me as one of them, naturally enquire about the dog’s absence.  I have to break the news that the dog they regarded as a fixture is no more.  This upsets them (and no doubt their dog too listening in on the conversation).  Reminders of mortality, especially first thing on a summer morning with the skylarks singing, seem misplaced. I have been tempted to make up happier stories about the dog being on holiday or having been adopted by some adoring family, but somehow they don’t stack up and I know the truth will out.

Secondly, walking alone feels strangely incomplete. I appreciate that I have a perfect right to walk along lanes and across fields early in the morning if I want to, but it feels, well, odd.  I used to jog, until my GP told me it wasn’t doing my knees any good, and that was legitimate without a dog – but just walking?   I imagine people giving me suspicious looks, wondering if I am up to no good.  A fugitive from justice perhaps?  A sex maniac stalking hapless females?  A burglar on an early morning reconnaissance?  My Pilates trainer, Jacky Edes (a woman and a keen dog walker) says that she is wary of meeting lone, dogless, men. She says lone women are OK, but not men (but then, she is a woman).  A possible solution, we decided, was that I should disguise myself as a woman – but then I’d surely get odd looks from men. Come to think of it, the sight of me disguised as a woman would inevitably attract odd looks from everyone, regardless of gender!    

Thirdly, the motivation to go for a walk, brisk or otherwise, is diminished by the absence of an enthusiastic dog. Going for a walk, rain or shine, used to be non-negotiable but now I find myself able to choose, and that’s dangerous. It becomes iffy. I might decide it is too cold or too wet or that skipping the odd walk won’t matter; definitely the thin end of a walkless wedge.

Of course, the solution is to get a replacement dog but we are soon to downsize (dreadful word) and any new acquisitions take us in the wrong direction.  Perhaps I could volunteer myself as a dog walker and walk other peoples’ dogs?  But I liked our dog, I was never particularly fond of anyone else’s.

No, there is nothing for it but to soldier on and get used to walking alone regardless of strange looks.


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