Things You Might Have Missed
Psssst. Come here. I want to tell you something. Just between you and me:
You’re missing out.
I know because I see you while I’m out walking dogs every day. You’re walking your dog too, but you’re not really there.
Your dog knows it. I see them looking at me and I smile at them, hoping you’ll notice me noticing them and then realize that at the end of your arm is a leash attached to everything you’re busy chasing somewhere else. You really matter to your dog, you know. If you pay attention, you might feel how important and appreciated you are. It feels real good.
I see you with your head down, eyes fixed on your phone’s screen, one arm fully extended behind you. You’re not aware that you’re dragging your dog along who is trying to sniff something very important. When you get home, maybe you realize that you forgot to pay attention to your dog the whole time you were out. It’s almost as if that walk never happened.
How did I get here?
You’re missing out. I know because I used to miss out too. I was so caught up in my thoughts or in a phone conversation that I ended every walk feeling uneasy. Unsatisfied. Disconnected. Like I hadn’t been there at all. I wasn’t. I was everywhere but where I was: walking the dog outside.
Over more than a decade of walking dogs every day, I’ve learned how good it feels to be totally present, as best I can, during my walks. I’m happier, less stressed, and not to toot myown horn but: TOOT! The dogs think I’m the best when I’m paying attention.
No matter how crummy stuff might be in other areas of my life, when I’m fully in the moment I notice amazing things about the world around me, the people in it, and the dogs next to me. I wind up feeling grateful for all these nuggets of greatness sprinkled around me. Plus, I know that no matter what happens on the walk, I was totally there for my dogs.
I don’t want to get all yoga pants on you, but what I’m talking about is mindfulness. It’s not always easy to pay attention on purpose, but it feels hella good when you drop into it. Not sure how? Your dogs are great mindfulness teachers.
As Eckhart Tolle says, in one of my favorite books Guardians of Being, illustrated by Mutts creator Patrick McDonnell, “Millions of people who otherwise would be completely lost in their minds and in endless past and future concerns are taken back by their dog or cat into the present moment, again and again, and reminded of the joy of Being.”
I want you to try it. Put down the phone. Stop having an imaginary argument with the clerk at the DMV in your head. Tune in to what’s happening right now. Stop trying to distract yourself or multitask. Pay attention. Be fully present to yourself, your dog, and the world around you.
You’re missing all kinds of beautiful, important, stinky, funny stuff that will leave you feeling mighty fine.
Don’t believe me?
Here’s what you’re missing:
1. Your dog walking at your side, looking up at you with joy, hoping you’ll look down at them.
2. The feeling of the year’s first warm breeze across your skin.
3. This little bird at the bottom of a fence post:
4. The sound of bumblebees buzzing in the flowers.
5. That your dog just pooped in someone’s beautiful flower bed and you didn’t clean up.
6. The patients in the hospital building who are looking out of their fourth story windows at you.
7. The blossoms on the trees above you:
8. The mailman who just smiled at you.
9. The smell of freshly baked cookies and crusty bread floating down the block from the bakery on the corner.
10. The “lost cat” fliers that someone posted in the hopes that strangers like you would keep an eye out.
11. The art. The art. The art. All of it:
12.The birds singing back and forth to each other.
13. The sweet old ladies sitting in lawn chairs quietly saying to each other that your dog is beautiful.
14. Your dog’s wagging tail because she heard her fan club’s compliments.
15. The weight of the snow on the branches:
16. The butterflies circling in and out of the bushes.
17. Me. Look up. You almost walked right into me dude.
18. Your dog’s nose twitching in the wind, eyes half-closed, as he decodes a smell that has washed over him.
19. The feel of moss on a city wall. Touch it:
20. The car you stepped out in front of that almost clipped you.
21. The elaborate changing holiday displays in row-home picture windows.
22. The squirrel your dog just spotted and is going to launch itself at in a second.
23. The chance to say “Yes! Good boy!” when he decided to ignore the squirrel, like you taught him.
24. The flowers, the grass, the whole shebang:
This is just some of it. There’s so much more, but you gotta put down the phone, let go of the endless conversations you’re having in your head, and pay attention to everything around you. It’s worth it. Promise.
Life is one dog walk at a time. Don’t miss it.