Courtesy of Jonne Dowds Pysiotherapist
A wise man once told me that having a dog is the best way of guaranteeing exercise, the bigger the dog, the better, his reasoning was that larger dogs need more exercising. Generally dogs need 30mins to 2 hrs of exercise a day depending on size, age and breed which is fairly similar to the recommendations for humans -at least 30 minutes exercise most days of the week. Science fact does corroborate this particular wise man’s thoughts, those who have dogs do indeed have higher levels of physical activity; in fact when dog owners are reminded that physical activity and exercise benefits their dogs health, they are much more likely to increase their own physical activity than when prompted regarding increasing activity for the sake of their own health. People love and care for their dogs, sometimes more than they love and care for themselves.
While having a dog is a huge responsibility nearly 50% of Irish homes have at least one dog. My family have had a canine family member since my sisters and I smuggled an incontinent stray into the house one wet winter night back way back when I was in secondary school. We were able to keep that dog a secret for a good few weeks but the puddles eventually let the cat out of the bag. The most recent doggy bro passed away a few weeks ago. He was old (91 in doggy years) he lived a good life, he was very deeply loved and enthusiastic in his affection for almost all who past – he wasn’t perfect, he was a barker, a loud early morning barker.
We got him when he was a fluffy golden teddy bear of a pup which grew into a ginger beast when he reached his pomp. He would never say no to a walk, the sight of a pair of trainers being laced up was enough to send him off in an excited doggy wiggle of ecstasy to get to the door first. Years ago when I started to be more interested in doing exercise he was a non judgmental companion, always keen to accompany me. Slow pace or boring repetitive routes would never put him off Starting to run he would hare off down the road always in front, until he got to the next bend in the road, where he would turn and lap me as if I was a slow moving post, if I slowed right down to a walk, he would trot back, walk with me for a bit, offer a head for a pat, a lopsided tongue hanging out smile for encouragement and when I would be willing to pick up the pace again, he would career off to start lapping me all over again. Ears flapping, barreling along at full speed, just for the hell of it. Over the years he slowed down to a shuffle but he never lost his enthusiasm for fresh air and clocking miles. The walks just got short but only in the last little while would he ever let some one else lead out on a walk and that is how we knew he was sick.
The next time I go to my folks there will be spaces that weren’t there before; when the door opens space to enter, space under the table to stretch out legs when before there was a canine Hoover forensically looking for crumbs. There have been tears, there may be more. I do know there will be other dogs in the future.
I am a dog person, they are honest and enthusiastic; I have never met a dog I didn’t like. Yes they are a huge ongoing responsibility, like any relationship there is an investment required, for me it’s worth it because amongst many other returns you get your own devoted 4 legged motivator.