The Importance of Walking Dogs in Fraught Times. . .

Hersch Wilson
4 min readApr 11, 2024
Dogs unleashed!!!!

I walked out of our home with two of my best friends, Toby, a Great Pyrenees, and Maisie, our Chihuahua-terrier mix. I was stressed and in a bad mood, worrying about stuff I could do nothing about: Politics and wars. Forty minutes later, we returned, and things felt much lighter. I was thinking about the Woodpecker attacking a telephone pole (Why don’t Woodpeckers get concussions?) and a Turkey vulture floating overhead — was she checking us out?
What happened in the middle is the concern of this column.
First, and we just need to accept it, 2024 will continue to be a stressful year. And it no doubt will get worse (gulp) as November approaches. It will weigh heavily on all of us.
I have a dear friend whose solution is simply not watching, reading, or listening to the news. This is amazingly helpful! I tried it for a week and definitely felt better. And yet, I am not wired that way. In 1968 (ancient history), when President Johnson announced that he would not seek re-election amid the Vietnam War, I was 18. I was so excited by the news that I called all my friends and interrupted my Dad at work. I was officially labeled a political nerd.
The question for now is, “How will we stay sane and reduce the stress built into 2024?”
An essential part of the answer? (no, it’s not self-medicating) It is walking with your dogs . . . a lot.
I know, I know that many of us don’t have the time, are super busy, or just abhor walking. But this year especially is a time to take care of ourselves.
Here is what happens when we choose a deep walk with our dogs. First, it means no cell phones or earbuds, just our canines and us. Next, allow the dog (or dogs) to be the guide. The goal is to leave the human, chaotic, to-much-information world behind for a time. Experiencing the world, whether hiking in the mountains or walking around the block, through your dog’s senses is a natural way to accomplish this. And no, I don’t mean getting down on your knees and smelling what they smell. Don’t be cynical. Instead, it is to open ourselves up to the natural world as our dogs do. Why do you think that they are so excited to walk? It’s because nature beckons, and they get to share the experience with you.
Next, pay attention! It is easy to let our thoughts drift back to the human world. When that happens, we miss the sound of the Robins and Piñon Jays. We may miss that moment when, out of the blue, our dogs go to “full alert.” What are they sensing? Is there a coyote or a rabbit (or another dog) nearby? Those are the moments that we want to be fully present, as they are.
Finally, remember we are animals! We evolved to move, walk, run, and be outside! Living exclusively indoors is an oddity in the long gaze of human existence. Want some peace, some reflective time? Get out and walk, breathe in the season’s scent, and feel your pulse and respiration rate rise. Sweat a little bit. We will gain a better perspective after a walk with dogs by our side. We will better understand whether we have real problems or are just infected with inconveniences.
This is not to say that we should try to escape permanently! We cannot leave our responsibilities.
There is a beautiful line written a millennia ago by Rabbi Tarfon in the Mishnah. He wrote, “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief . . . You are not obligated to complete the world, but neither are you free to abandon it.”
I take this to mean that even in our complex and sometimes soul-wrenching world, we have a role to play. We need to do what we can to confront evil and comfort the stricken. How we go about that is personal for each of us. Yet, we cannot simply withdraw.
At the same time, we crave and need solace. Here, our dogs can play a role. They greet us enthusiastically when we come home. They are always up for that walk. They want to be with us, whether we are joyful or anxious. It is a great gift to have a dog in your life in times like ours. So what to do next? Go for a walk!
Hersch’s latest book, “Dog Lessons: Learning the Important Stuff from our Best Friends” is available at bookstores everywhere (Support your local bookstore!) and Online.



Hersch Wilson

Writer. Retired Firefighter. Dog Lover. Buddhist Beginner.