A while back I had the opportunity to chat with a reiki healer and I let her know that my daily dog walks were the closest thing I had to meditation. I like to take walks – short and long – with my dog and truly try to take in nature and disconnect while I am doing it. We fall into a side-by-side stride and make our way around the streets and paths through the neighborhood and without fail, it always lets me breathe a little easier and refocus my energy. I don’t bring a phone. I don’t listen to a podcast. I don’t make a mental to-do list or think about what’s waiting for me back at my desk. We just walk. I look at the changes in the trees and the flowers. I admire the different homes and look for landscaping inspiration. We just walk.
Along the way, we meet neighbors and fellow dog walkers and, as is custom with these encounters, I often get to know the dog before the owner. We exchange pleasantries about the weather and the puppies and let the dogs sniff and do their little dance and we move on with our days, saying an enthusiastic goodbye to each others’ dogs and often overlooking the human-to-human connection altogether because most dog lovers really prefer dogs to people…whether or not they care to admit it.
Today, I was walking Luna in that perfect 8am window when the kids are off to school, the inbox has just started humming to life so distractions are at a minimum and the southern California air is still crisp before the sun fully unleashes its strength on us. It’s my favorite time for our walks. She did her business quickly on our first, which is the norm. And we continued on our way when she suddenly stopped to do it again. I will spare you the details, but it’s odd for her to go twice on one walk. Too many apples, I silently decided, and made my way to the nearest doggy bag receptacle across the street.
On it, I saw a picture of a neighborhood dog I know well. His owners are an older couple that lives a few streets away. I often see the man out exercising on this funky bike/elliptical contraption thing and I always walk by their house where the woman’s art studio is situated in the front window with a sense of curiosity about what her medium is, her story, her inspiration. They seem like such a kind, mellow couple, settled into their sweet home.
But my favorite run-ins are always when they are with their dog. He is an old guy. A beagle mix of some type, I gather. And we only ever see them on morning walks, when it’s still cool enough for all of them to make a few rounds around the neighborhood. The man always has his coffee cup in hand. She always holds the leash. And we stop so the dogs can say hi – a quick hello because our puppy’s young energy always gets on the old pup’s nerves after a minute or two. The couple laughs and tells us how they remember his puppy days. Give our Luna a nice long scratch on the head and go on with their day. Happier to have run into her than us, I am sure.
I never caught that dog’s name until today.
On that sign post above the bag dispenser. Bubu. His grumpy old face on the picture underneath his name. A shining cataract in one eye, from what I can tell. A birth date and a date of passing.
And one final message: Dogspeed, Mr. Bu.
I teared up a little, Luna at my side, sniffing away at the nearby mulch. I was so happy they chose to post this photo for all of us to see and pay tribute to their sidekick. To acknowledge that his life was a long one, a happy one, and one that touched all the people that crossed his path every day, even in a seemingly small way. To get me to pause in my morning walk and reflect on “dogspeed” for a moment and have a little teary-eyed laugh in Bubu’s honor.
I’ve started really meditating recently. It’s become really apparent to me that in this whole self-care thing, the number one area I need to focus on is emotional and mental. Stress has been getting to me in ways that it simply shouldn’t and I’m really committed to changing my mindset when it comes to sweating the small stuff…because, as they say, it really is all small stuff. So I’ve started a regular meditation practice with a little help from Headspace (love it) and it’s been helpful. I can see the clarity starting to poke through the clutter and though some days are certainly more mindful than others, it is a habit I hope to keep at.
But it won’t replace my dog walks. There is simply something about being out there and having Luna alongside me, taking in the world and her place in it and somehow knowing that despite all the distractions around her – scents, birds, other dogs to greet – she will always fall right back into stride with me. She will always look up at me every few yards to make sure she is doing well, to look for my smile of approval. To take in the quiet morning (or evening) air and all of its sounds and smells and random encounters in (semi) solitude. To feel the pavement under my feet and know that going nowhere for twenty minutes every day can help me get everywhere I need to be.
To move at dogspeed.
Just like Mr. Bu.
Nothing will replace that.