5. Right in My Own Backyard

5. Right in My Own Backyard

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You

Right in My Own

If your dog is fat,
you’re not getting enough exercise.
 ~Author Unknown

Obviously I needed to exercise more. I was overweight and in my mid-50s, certainly not getting any younger. Start walking, I was told. Everyone can walk, it doesn’t require a machine, it’s free, it puts little stress on aging bodies and what with iPods and cell phones one can almost put in a day’s work while satisfying the body’s need to move.

I began walking the dog and what a great thing it was. Except for that little problem of other dogs, of course. For while I leashed my Belgian Malinois in a strong harness and retractable leash, other dogs were running loose. The first one was a little Pomeranian who came running out on the street and bit my dog.

The Pomeranian lived, but I didn’t sleep for three straight nights from the horror of it. Three months later it was a Cocker Spaniel. Amazingly, the Cocker lived, though it lost an eyeball.

“Some dogs just bring out the desire to conquer in other dogs,” was how my vet explained it.

A few weeks later it was a Bichon Frise, just as cute a little dog as possible. The Bichon came running from her house. She did not attack Jo-Ann but it looked at first like she might.

I did spend a few weeks cursing the gods of careless dog owners, but when push came to shove the fact was that I simply could not walk my dog in my neighborhood any more.

It’s hard to walk a dog when you can’t take her on a public street. Walking the dog, however, became the least of my problems after I was diagnosed with very clogged arteries and needed a quadruple coronary bypass.

After my recovery a daily exercise routine became more than a nice diversion. In order to control impending diabetes and cholesterol buildup, I would have to exercise. Walking, my cardiologist told me. Walking is the best exercise for someone of your age! If you have a dog to walk, all the better!

I wondered about God’s sense of humor and if He got the irony of it all.

As I recovered from the operation I would go out in the backyard and walk back and forth. The Belgian Malinois by then was not getting any daily exercise save her jaunts in the yard to do her business.

She joined me in my slow recovering walks across the yard and back and in due course I began to toss the ball around for her.

It began slowly but over time I created a happening morning exercise routine for human and dog in that backyard. I packed an old coffee can full of treats for Jo-Ann and every day I threw the ball and rewarded her with a biscuit when she dutifully brought it back to me. As my body healed, I took a slow jog around my “walking track.” I started with one jog around, then two, on up to 10 jogs every day.

I took my morning coffee outside and sat it on the deck rail. With a piece of chalk I marked off my “revolutions” around the jogging track. To my and my husband’s amusement, a perfectly circular area of bare ground appeared, my own personal jogging/walking track.

Indeed I put the leash on Jo-Ann, and after her ball fun and my morning jobs, walked around that track until I was up to 50 rounds each morning, one chalk hash mark drawn in for every five “circuits” around the track.

In the summer I hooked up a big box fan and sat a lawn chair in front. If it was too hot I could sit down and rest. Jo-Ann loved to play “tuggy toy” with me and that became part of our morning exercise fun.

Sometimes I will make all my phone calls on my cell as I walk around my track, sometimes I listen to my iPod, sometimes I record my “to do” list into the cell phone. When my granddaughter visits, she jumps out of bed in the morning and accompanies me around my track.

In spring I can smell the honeysuckle and watch the busy birds up close. Some mornings I bring out my kitchen scrap bucket and toss the compost pile with the handy pitchfork. In fall I rake the leaves, and this is also exercise.

I lost 40 pounds with this morning exercise routine and now I do not miss a day. The dog lost 15 pounds and the vet is overjoyed. I get up and do my morning chores, and after I gather my exercise bag, refill the coffee cup, and grab whatever gadget I might need for my morning plan. No machines needed, no fancy doodads, just a backyard, and best of all, no dogs unattended by thoughtless owners to terrorize me and my happy and healthy dog.

~Patricia Fish

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