September 16, 2019

Please just let me walk my dogs.

I know people thought I was weird for walking my dogs around our field every day in Colorado. I didn't really care what they thought, especially given that I was wearing rubber boots and carrying a rifle with me most days.

Trampling through tall grass at high altitude is great exercise so I don't regret any of that walking.

I would walk the dogs on the trails in Laramie as well. Great exercise at altitude, kept me in shape for labor and delivery last summer, and helped me to lose baby weight when I put Wells in the Ergo and took him along. I didn't get quite as many weird looks there, because there were always a ton of people on the trails. I got a lot of questions about the baby though.

I did some of my very best thinking while walking. I listened to so many audiobooks. I listened to podcasts. I got blog post ideas. I would refresh my mind after a day of teaching and feel like yes, I can tackle all of those papers to grade and data to input that I had to bring home with me. Fresh air as a cure for restlessness and stress is not an overrated idea. It helped me a tremendous amount in those uncertain post-partum months, dealing with sleep-deprivation and whatnot. Plus, the stress of moving across the country, trying to sell a house, of not knowing what a new place will look like/be like, etc. Taking the dogs on a two mile walk each day was most likely what kept me sane last fall.

Flash forward to present day, in Pittsburgh.

My biggest struggle has been walking the dogs. Where, how, and when specifically.

Where: It's Pittsburgh.

How: Off-leash is preferred and I don't do dog parks if they're not on an army base (where they're closely monitored). Otherwise, they're gross.

When: What time of day that Wells and I can both work with and is okay weather-wise.

My solution has been, more or less...

Drive 15 minutes to a park in the morning. It's usually not crowded during the day. Use the stroller to push Wells and let the dogs run the trails off-leash while I walk. They're on electronic collars so I have decent control and they follow my "rules" pretty well.

In the evening, after dinner, I load up the stroller again and leash-walk the dogs with one hand, while pushing the stroller with the other for about a mile around the neighborhood. Up and down the hills, winding through the streets. I usually listen to Matt Walsh's daily podcast while we walk, with my phone just sitting in the stroller.

#1 The dogs expect this second walk now so I can't not do it.

#2 The outside time/fresh air helps calm Wells down for bedtime. So, I could leave Wells with Scott, but that would ruin half the purpose for the walk. Sometimes Scott comes with us, but sometimes he stops at the gym during this time (he has like an hour commute...that's 7 Pittsburgh miles in traffic = 1 I don't like to obligate him to an evening activity) and I do not deviate from our schedule because #bedtime. But sometimes I leave Wells with Scott because it's just easier and sometimes I walk just Wells, like on the weekends if Scott has taken the dogs out for the day to hunt or hike.

But back to the general point of this post:

I don't walk the dogs grudgingly. This is how I get my exercise. Plus, they need as much exercise as possible.  Wells has been walking dogs since he was 3 days old when we took a family walk to the park in Laramie last summer. It just is what it is. Hopefully we'll have a few acres again in a year or two and it won't be so hard. People have always kind of left me alone while I do this daily task, and I need this pseudo-alone time to get on with the rest of my day. I am very much an introvert and need to be alone to get my energy.

But not in Pittsburgh.

Generally, 2-5 people or sets of people will stop me to talk. To comment. To ask questions. This is in a span of about 20-30 minutes.

It's like it's so incredibly odd to see someone walking two dogs at once and then when you add in the stroller, they can't help it.

"You have your hands full!" I hear this comment at least once a day, but usually more. Usually from the same person more than once because I see the same neighbors day in and day out (yes, it's awful).

"Sorry!" As their dogs run off their porch to come sniff and see Jett and Scout. I don't care, but good Lord. What is the point of those collars and that invisible fence if you have to chase your Bernese Mountain dogs (plural) onto the street every time we walk by?

"What kind of dogs are they?" I thought Brittanys were more popular here or, at least, people 'round PA knew what they were.

"I admire you!" Literally, I don't know what to say to this, so I just say thank you.

"You need some help!". Yes. I do. Or I need a 35 acre field. Either would solve the problem.

A lot of the time, I put my headphones in because then I don't actually have to stop, I can just wave (which is really hard to do with no hands free). And sometimes I put my headphones in and call my mom so I look like a crazy person (to the technology-uninformed) and like I'm talking to myself but I look busy and people generally don't have anything to say then.

Because honest to goodness, I just want to be left alone.

We live in a neighborhood with a lot of retirees/near retired people and I don't have the energy to strike up the same conversation again and again. It's not that I don't like talking to people, it's that I have to turn off my podcast, I have to make sure the stroller isn't going to roll away, I have to make sure the dogs aren't going to jump or sniff or get tangled. And then I have to form the coherent sentences to make the person know that, even though we have Alaska and Colorado license plates, I can carry on a conversation. Our neighborhood is not super kind to newcomers and I've kind of given up on explaining our story: My husband's in the army. He's stationed in Pittsburgh for a year or so. ...yes, we're just renting that house. ...Wells, he's a year. ....Brittany spaniels. ....oh, someone has to walk them, so it might as well be me!

^that's usually how it goes and then I continue on my way, actively avoiding people if I can. I don't even tell people we're from Pennsylvania anymore. I used to think that would make them like us more, but it's so much work to explain. I just let them assume whatever they want now. The other day, someone asked and I said I'm from "near State College" because generally people know where that is because of Penn State. She asked if that was in Pennsylvania. ......

Also, I'm grateful to live in a settled and safe neighborhood (most houses built in the 70s and I'm sure the original owners still live in most of them), because that's not always the case. However, it has indeed taken 7+ months for people to warm up to us and seem to care that we live here. They're generally more receptive when they see we have a baby.

And don't @ me on this: people here are not nearly as nice and kind as they are out west (Alaska and Wyoming...Colorado was okay but the cartel is taking over that state so...).

There's a lot of immigrants in the neighborhood as well and they're all terrified of the dogs and Idon'tknowwhy because they don't so much as bark. There is one little girl who loves to look at them so I often stop when I see her in her driveway so she can decide if this is the day she wants to try and pet Jett (sometimes she does). She likes to look at Wells too because she has a baby sister.

My point, I suppose, is that walking the dogs used to be my alone time. Even taking Wells along, it's time when I can just think and relax.

Now, it's turned into social hour and I'm kind of looking forward to winter when all of the people will retreat into their houses for 4-5 months and maybe then I can walk the dogs in peace. Wells can come if he wants.


  1. I always assume people just want to be left alone (maybe because I'm projecting my own feelings onto themm?), which is why I always just look longingly at every single dog I see instead of asking the owner if it's okay to pet them. Unless the dog actually comes up to me and asks to be petted, then I assume it's okay ;-)

  2. I totalllllly get it!!! I always enjoy my walks/runs all on my own. It clears my head - gives me time to think, wind down. get stress out. I appreciate when my hubs wants to go with me but sometimes I'm like - I WANT TO BE ALONE!!!!!
    .. & hey, if anyone is handing out acres? accept it :)

  3. I feel your pain. Not literally because I have none of these dilemmas, but I totally get it. {most} people are afraid of silence and feel the need to comment on something... even though it's REALLY not necessary. I get it with my name all the damn time...


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