Walking Cricket has become one of the unexpected joys of a year at home.
Admittedly, I’m not always eager to drop what I’m doing, put on shoes, grab a coat and spend the next hour walking a seven-year-old golden retriever still bustling with the chaotic energy of a puppy. But without fail, each time I return home, I find myself calmer and more content than when I left.
Before COVID-19, Cricket would spend most of her energy greeting everyone in my home as we rushed in and out of the house throughout the day. If she was lucky, on some days she might pile in the car with us to run an errand. But when the pandemic relegated me, my brother and our mother to our home all day, Cricket needed an outlet for all her unexpended energy.
To satisfy that need for exercise and engagement, my brother would play with her between classes, and I decided I would start walking Cricket after dinner each night.
So, for the past year or so, right around sunset, I’ve called out for Cricket, clasped a leash to her collar and set out across the neighborhood.
During spring and summer 2020, I had very little to do. As a result of that free time, it was very easy to develop our evening walks into a daily routine. However, as the months of online classes have rolled on, I’ve often found myself stuck in a perpetual state of half-focus and half-relaxation, distressed by the worst of both worlds. But by getting out of the house at least once each day, I’ve been able to punctuate my evening with an hour of recreation and reflection.
Feeling the cool evening breeze is calming. Speeding up my steps to keep pace with the energetic dog at the end of my leash gets me active. Even small things — like seeing neighbors hauling in their groceries — remind me that life is going on all around, even when I can’t see it. Perhaps greatest of all is watching Cricket dart across the house, overcome with joy, when she first sees me put my shoes on.
After Cricket has run back inside and up to her bed, I’m still buoyed by the benefits of such a brisk break. When I return to my desk, I find I have more clarity and calm, and what overwhelmed me an hour ago seems that much more manageable.
What started as a way to satisfy my dog’s energy ended up serving as a much-needed daily decompression and a time to remind myself of the blessings around me and the tasks ahead of me.
As I round out my first year of college, I’ve started to sit with and examine the varying joys and disappointments I’ve encountered. Such a practice can lead me to worry about missed opportunities or lost time. But whenever I think about my walks with Cricket, I remember the unexpected delights I’ve experienced, and like Cricket as we leave the house, my mind races with anticipation for the future.
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Contact Reagan Phillips via Twitter: @reagphil or by email firstname.lastname@example.org