Your dog knows you in a funny way better than anyone else. They see you at your finest (singing along with the radio at the top of your voice, days where you tackle life with focus and gusto) but also at your lowest ebb (having no motivation to work or learn or create, days where you feel lacklustre and devoid of inspiration). They see you dressed up in your finest – perfumed and coiffed, and they see you slouching around spotty and pale in grubby tracksuit bottoms. And they probably prefer you in the latter. The point is, whatever your mood, dogs adapt and act accordingly, and always, always make you feel better. If you decide to have a sneaky daytime siesta when you’re supposed to be working from home, they’ll hop up on the bed and snooze along with you (which somehow makes the whole thing lean to feeling indulgent rather than sad) and they won’t grass you up afterwards. You can be neurotic, bad-tempered, lazy, egotistical, moody, hyper – whatever – they’ll still love you. What more could you ask for in a companion?
I’ve always loved walking but now, I have to say, it feels a bit lonely without dogs. If I don’t have mine with me I’ll gravitate towards other peoples, and usually they understand because as dog owners they’re likely to do the same, the world over. Like any love, language is no barrier, love unites, and you can bend down to pet a dog in Delhi or Dachau or Dallas and convey in one exchange of looks with the owner how you feel about this species, and in that look find a common bond, a sweet moment of connection. Dogs just make everything better. They are company without pressure, a positive, supportive presence, they don’t judge, or try to suggest rational, logical solutions for your problems, they’re just there, with you. Canine Vladimirs and Estragons – just less complicated.
I feel free, unencumbered when I walk with my dogs. I am not wife, daughter, employee, friend. I have no history, no reputation precedes me, I am not bound to behaving in a certain way. I am me and I do not have to play a role. I pick and choose who I talk to, who I walk with – if the chemistry is lacking I walk another path, or I walk for hours with a stranger whose company I enjoy, but who I may never see again. It’s precious, that walk and it’s repeated a thousand different times over the course of a life with infinite variations. We forest bathe, me and my dogs. We interact with others or we are enormously antisocial. We get reenergised the way we need to depending on the moment. If there’s a truer, purer thing in life than walking with your dog, I don’t know it.