For the last week, and 1.5 weeks more, I’ve been covering for a local dog walker while she takes time off to get married and honeymoon. It all happened by accident. I was laid off a couple years ago from my regular job, and still work very part time there. I also still work with clients who come to me for Chi Running or Walking, but I do have free time on my hands. I use a lot of it prepping for certification in Restorative Exercise™ via Nutritious Movement, but can always stand more income. I didn’t know if it would be overwhelming, time-wise, and allow me to do what I needed to at my part time job. But I did want something that would incorporate more movement into my life, as I have seen huge benefits over the past year from getting more varied movement in my daily living.
I often take care of Pixie, when her owner, Madi, is out of town. Our home has become Pixie’s home-away-from-home. One day I walked into our local pet store, Wally Pets, with Pixie, and the owner Paul rang up my purchases, saying ‘I give all dog walkers 10% off.’ I explained I wasn’t really a dog walker but it was something I was interested in knowing more about. He put me in touch with Jessica, his FAVORITE dog walker, as she needed someone to cover her clients (see above), and a relationship was born. We arranged to meet and I walked a couple of dogs with her, asked lots of questions, and finally met the owners. My fears of commitment gradually eased, replaced by falling in love with the dogs. I now walk 5-8 miles a day (I was BUSHED after the first couple of days; I’m getting ‘trail hardened’ now) and I get the satisfaction of someone (the dog) happy to see me, several times a day. Talk about a soul filling job! And now I have to get a card to Paul so he’ll quit asking me for one. Ha!
As for movement nutrition, there’s the 5-8 miles a day of walking. There are also plenty of opportunities to work on balance, strengthening, flexibility…you name it. Here are a few.
- Pelvic list or balancing on one leg – Dogs have to stop and sniff. A LOT. This is a good opportunity to practice balancing on one foot, ala pelvic list, which also strengthens your lateral hip muscles.
- Calf stretch – Another stop makes an opportunity for a calf stretch, especially when I’m in my most minimalist sandals, my Lunas. Can’t do too many of those! All I need is a curb or rock or log.
- Squats – And of course, if the dog poops, it has to be bagged – that’s the law! Rather than bend over, flexing your lower back (ow!), it’s a good time to squat. And if they leave what I call a ‘trail of turds’ you can move laterally in that squat to make sure you got it all.
- Upper body strengthening – Many times, especially if I have a ‘puller’ that weighs more than 20-30 pounds, I’ll use a waist leash. That frees up my arms for movement, and I can still grab the leash if needed. But sometimes I use the owner’s leash. With a puller, that’s an opportunity for working on upper body strength! The day after I walked an 8 month old springer spaniel, I felt it in my shoulders. It’s better than tug-a-war!
- Distance looking – We all need more distance looking, as we stare at the phone or computer screen far too long. All this near work contributes to myopia, tension headaches, etc. When you’re walking a dog, it’s a good idea to watch for another dog coming down your path, at least a block away, so you know if you need to switch to the other side of the street to avoid conflict. Sometimes I have to stare a minute to see what the other walker is doing and where they’re headed.
All these moves help undo habits and damage from modern living of sitting long hours, walking over flat and level terrain, and missing out on varied movements. Best of all, I get to walk and vary my walk in many ways (I have #7 covered)! I’m enjoying this job, and hope to continue when Jessica returns. My new moniker will be The Accidental Dog Walker, but really, it’s no accident. It’s like it was supposed to happen.