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English Dogs: Walking 10,000 Steps a Day the English Way

English Dogs: Walking 10,000 Steps a Day the English Way

The English have a well-deserved reputation for being dog lovers.  When I was living in London in the fall of 2015, there were English dogs everywhere I went.  I saw them in Tube stations, on buses and trains, in stores and pubs, and even in some restaurants. 

My favorite dog encounter was at Kenwood House, an eighteenth-century mansion on the northern edge of Hampstead Heath.  Kenwood House sits on one of the highest spots in London.  When you stand on the terrace, you can see a large swath of the Heath.  It’s a great spot for walking, especially with dogs. 

As I stood there that day watching dozens of English dogs and their owners enjoying the Heath, I wished that my two Shih Tzus were there to enjoy it with me.  Dave and Buster had been part of our family for almost 16 years.  I missed them greatly while I was in London.    

Sadly, Dave passed away in November 2015 and Buster followed in May 2016.  Our kids are all out on their own, and my husband and I are travelling more for work.  Reluctantly we agreed there would be no more dogs in the Sehy household.  I packed up the leashes, coats, grooming clippers, unopened packages of heartworm pills, and much more, and donated everything to an animal rescue group.

But it turned out that we really we missed the canine companionship.  Cautiously we started talking about how nice it would be to have a dog again.  Then my niece, who's a reporter for Naperville News Cable Channel 17, did a piece on the Naperville Area Humane Society.  I watched it and decided that it couldn't hurt to check out their website.  Before we knew it, we were the proud owners of a two-year-old Lhasa Apso/Poodle mix named Chip. 

It was soon obvious that this particular two-year-old was still very much a puppy.  He has boundless energy and a propensity for chewing shoes, socks, paper, and anything else he can get his little teeth on.  He also loves to race around the house, and he can leap over the couch in a single bound.  But more than anything else, he loves to take long walks.  Rain, wind, snow, ice – there hasn’t been a day yet when he hasn’t wanted to venture out. 

We started out taking 20-minute walks in the morning, and gradually we stayed out longer and longer.  Chip loved the longer walks, and I loved the idea that if we walked far enough, he just might settle down quietly on the couch in my office when we got home, while I got on with the business of writing.  Now we walk for 50 to 60 minute most mornings, and try to get another half hour walk in the afternoon.  I still haven’t managed to wear him out, but somewhere along the line, I borrowed my husband's Fitbit and discovered that I was walking close to 10,000 steps a day - that's four miles!

Hampstead Heath in London (top of page) and Chip and Steve on our own little Hampstead Heath (above)

One of our favorite places to walk is a large common area in the middle of our subdivision.  It’s not exactly wild space, but there are trees, large rocks, and a big, grassy field.  I like to think of it as our own miniature Hampstead Heath.  In the months since he’s joined our family, Chip and I have tramped across it on sunny days and in the pouring rain.  We’ve been out there when it was 10 degrees and the grass was slick with frost.  We’ve even made the first footprints (and paw prints) as we plowed through six inches of new snow.

Chip can't ride on the bus or go to the grocery store like English dogs, but when we tramp across that field in the morning, I imagine that we’re tramping across our own little bit of Hampstead Heath.  Now all I need are a pair of Wellies, because goose poop season is coming up!

Photo by Abc10, Wikimedia Commons

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