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Minnie and Gracie enjoying a day at the beach.

A little dog cured my boredom and redefined the outdoor experience.

 

When I’m in good health, one of my favorite things is enjoying an active lifestyle. Before I met my husband, I was teaching yoga in Southern California, lifting weights and timing treadmill walks. When I wasn’t at the gym, I was riding my pink beach cruiser around the neighborhood, or walking to Whole Foods to buy ingredients for dinner.

The one activity I didn’t like doing alone: outdoor walks. I was so bored walking miles by myself, especially if I didn’t have a practical destination like food shopping or Pilates class. Walking for hours outdoors just for the heck of it was boring to the point of anxiety provoking.

When I lived in New York City, I listened to music to drown out the urban noise all around me. That made miles of walking a pleasant workout. But ever since I opted for quieter, more peaceful places to live, earbuds became less appealing compared to the sounds of birds chirping and waves crashing. Still, nature walks without a companion were boring as heck.

Years before I discovered Gracie abandoned at a shelter, I prayed. “God, please send me a dog who will be my best friend and will love walking with me wherever I go.”

When I saw little Gracie’s pleading Chihuahua face squished up to the metal gate at the shelter, my gut said, that’s her.

 
Our Adventure Begins

 

Gracie is the walking buddy I prayed for. She absolutely loves to walk anywhere outside the walls of home. In California, she walked the famed Santa Monica promenade and pier with me, and the quaint streets of artsy Laguna Beach. She reluctantly window shopped at outdoor malls, The Grove and Fashion Island, and trotted the paved winding coastline of Long Beach. Strapped into my bike’s basket, she curiously observed every block we peddled by.

In North Carolina, she hiked the hills of the Appalachian trail, the sandy Army grounds of Fort Bragg, pulled her leash toward the aromatic restaurants in Raleigh, and went swimming in the ocean near Wilmington.

She walked miles of sandy shores in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, thoroughly investigating shells, crab legs and seaweed.She graciously greeted dog loving passerby on long boardwalks that overlooked grassy marshlands.

She toured Edith Wharton’s dog-friendly home in Massachusetts, trotted down the famous “Rocky Balboa” steps in Philadelphia and paused near the Liberty Bill, allowing three admiring teenagers to gently pet her head.

In New York, she sniffed the wildflower bluffs overlooking Montauk, furiously paddled in the Long Island Sound, and made her mark in sprawling Central Park. She confidently strutted the paved loops at Fort Totten in Queens, and joined us for dinner under fairy lights in Bayside.

In Florida, she sweetly bumped wet noses with a friendly orange cat on the streets of Fort Lauderdale, and toured the Pirates Museum in St. Augustine (that time, hidden in my bag).

Thanks to Gracie, I walked miles on outdoor adventures before I met my husband. And after we were officially a family, she enjoyed even more adventures with her outdoorsy Dad. Woodsy greenbelt trails, big city streets, historic state parks, flowery gardens, shell-lined beaches, tree lined lakes — Gracie has walked them all!

 
Fresh Perspectives

 

Why do I love walking outdoors with dogs so much?

Because they appreciate Mother Nature’s reality show. They notice the little things humans often pass right by. Dogs are present, and walking with them makes me be present, too. So I don’t miss the opportunity to inhale the sweet scent of a blooming rose, admire the colorful feathers of a grazing bird. Or witness a twitchy squirrel frantically nibbling on a nut, or a chipmunk diving headfirst into a hole in the ground. I even kneel down and take a closer look at the weird oversized bug crawling across the path.

Our dogs are so excited by the natural world around them, when they intently sniff the air, it tells a story to them that we can only imagine. A tumbling leaf is something to be chased, a tuft of grass reveals who peed there before them, an open stretch of land is to be explored and conquered with enthusiasm. They stop to appreciate the wind blowing through their fur and gently close their eyes to worship the warmth of the sun.

If you ever think nature is boring, try walking with a dog. Seize the day is just a saying. Take a dog outdoors, and they actually do it. And if you’re with them, chances are you will, too.

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