Friday, February 1, 2013

How Our Dog Got Us Hooked On Walking



Sweetie and I started walking in March of 2012. Our dog, Max, needed an energy outlet. He cannot visit dog parks because he is not dog friendly. We decided we’d walk him around our neighborhood - generally not more than a mile or two. It wasn't ideal. There are no sidewalks, almost every other house has a dog in a fenced yard, and we encountered at least one loose dog on every walk – some more obedient to “stay” and big arm flapping than others. We changed our route a few times to no avail. Loose dogs were popping out everywhere (usually from someone’s front porch, *sigh*). This was especially frustrating because we live in a city with a leash law and these loose dog owners didn't seem to understand that it had nothing to do with their "friendly" dog and more to do with our not-so-friendly dog. "Oh, don't worry! He's friendly! He just wants to play!" GRRRR ...

Max was stressed. He loved his walks and got excited when we got his leash, but he’d start whining as soon as we started walking. He was tense and ready to lunge at everything. This was not what we wanted for him. We wanted him to burn energy, not be frightened every step of the way. In August, about 5 months in, Max injured his back. There’s no absolute way to know exactly how it happened, but we were certain that the constant lunging and barrel rolls at the end of his leash were not helping. He was on bed rest for a week.
Sweetie and I decided to start trying out other trails around town while Max was resting. This way, we could find out if it would work for him without the stress of finding out *with* him if it wasn't going to work. We walked a different trail every day of the week and found 2 do-able locations.

One was only an eighth of a mile so it would work great to ease him back into walking again. It was small enough that we would be able to see upon pulling up to the lot whether there was another dog there.
The other was a half-mile, so also short, but with hills. Ironically enough, it was right next to a dog park. This actually worked out to our favor because any dogs that came to that area were going to the park, not the trail. We were dog-free 90% of the time. It was sketchy though. Neither of us really wanted the other walking out there alone.

The week after Max had begun walking again, I had a work trip and Sweetie would be walking him on her own. She was texting me before and after each walk so I knew she was okay. One day, she didn't feel comfortable going to either of the trails and decided to try another one we’d talked about but hadn't previewed yet. That was Little Blue Trace Trail. I was very upset that she tried that alone, not knowing what kind of loose dogs she might encounter or what the clientele was like in that area. However, it turned out okay. They did encounter a few other dogs that were on leashes walking with their owners but the trail offers a wide strip of grass on either side of the pavement so she was able to give ample space.

From Facebook user that tagged the trail

When I returned from my work trip, we decided to take the trail that went in the opposite direction. Little Blue Trace Trail is 14 miles. The mile marker posts start at #1 out of the city, dare I say – the country, and the trail weaves its way to an end near a shopping center. Sweetie had started at the end, near the shopping center, on the paved section. We read some reviews from cyclists on the trail that there were less dog walkers and baby strollers further from the shopping center, on the crushed limestone surface. We figured it was worth a shot. It was probably the best decision we’d ever made. We have been walking on Little Blue Trace Trail ever since.

 
Native wildflowers
On support under the bridge
From Facebook user that tagged the trail
From Facebook user that tagged the trail

This trail is beautiful! The short 2 - 3 mile section that we started with is close to civilization but you wouldn't know it unless you sat quietly and listened. There are mini-forests of trees and wild grasses lining either side of the trail. When there aren't trees, there’s a wide expanse of native grasses or neighboring farming fields. You get the impression that you really are taking a walk out into the country. We saw deer within 10 feet of us, more squirrels than warrant counting, blue birds, cardinals, eagles, hawks, cranes, and turkeys. That was actually the first time I’d ever seen a wild turkey!

This was not the deer within 10 feet.
They tend to stand still longer
the further away they are.

About a month after starting this trail, we decided to see what laid further out from our 2 mile marker. We eventually went from parking lot to parking lot (4.84 miles). Then we decided to drive a little further and start at the parking lot we’d walked to. It wasn't our favorite. There’s a sporting field complex along that section of trail which brought some trash and not as much nature. There was even a loose dog that was playing fetch with its owner in an unused soccer field.

In November it started getting dark before I got home from work so Sweetie was walking Max on her own again. They began exploring the trail further and further out. She was sending me beautiful pictures of mini-waterfalls and long expanses of grass fields.  I would walk with them on Sundays if the weather cooperated. I was up for going wherever they wanted to take me and for however long they wanted. I’m not great when it comes to jogging or running, but I can walk pretty much all day as long if I have the right shoes. At some point while I was gone, they improved their pace to about 3 mph, which is more of a speed walk that I wasn't ready for but that’s a different post.


Cue January.

The weather this year has been ridiculous! We've even had thunder snow! I didn't believe that was a real thing until it happened. It’s warm, it’s cold, it’s windy, it’s balmy, it's below freezing, it's in the 50's. Sometimes all in the span of one day, LOL!

We think the railroad is an abandoned one
but neither of us can figure it out for certain.
Still, it's beautiful!

Sweetie has declared 40-50, sunny, with a light-to-no breeze as the perfect walking conditions. I agree completely. Last Sunday (Jan 27th), I came home from work around 1:30 and immediately changed into walking shoes, exercise pants, a tshirt, and hoodie to go on a walk with Max & Sweetie. She suggested the trail section she'd just walked the prior week and I agreed. When we got there, I changed my mind and suggested we walk the opposite direction and explore more. We were 5 miles from the beginning of the trail. Neither of us were up for a 10-mile round trip walk but it sure was temping being that close! There were more structural beauties on this stretch of the trail. Abandoned rail power stations, bridges, and the overpass like you see in the above picture. About a mile in, I took off my hoodie and tied it around my waist. I couldn't believe it. Short sleeves in January! Missouri weather was officially INSANE! It had been in the low 20's just two days prior - and it was snowing two days later. *sigh*

If it weren't for Max, we wouldn't have been likely to explore trails. If we hadn't found this trail, walks wouldn't be nearly as peaceful and pleasurable as they are and we probably wouldn't mind as much missing them. These walks are both energizing and calming. They seem to help center us. When we walk together, it's an opportunity for us to just BE together. I love our walks and I love that our dog is who got us hooked on them!

2 comments:

  1. What a beautiful trail! Great job on all the walking. :)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, and yes - it IS a beautiful trail!

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