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First Person Pain Rehabilitation

Walking Dogs In The Rain

People who write love songs about walking in the rain don’t live in Ohio. In December.

I do.

I’m just going to say, cold rain is not my idea of romantic. Or comfortable.

Miserable. It does come to mind when I think of the word ‘miserable’.

Loki – also not a fan of rain – explores his favorite puddle.

I bring this up, because I was thinking about habits.

We got a pandemic puppy last March. Loki is the quintessential pandemic puppy – born in January and adopted from a shelter the first day of lockdown. (Yes, we had been planning on adopting for a year, it wasn’t a spontaneous decision.)

Dogs require walking. Loki – a Manchester terrier – requires a LOT fo walking. He’s athletic, active and, well, a PUPPY. If he doesn’t exercise an hour a day, his energy bursts through in ways best left un-described. Let’s just say that shredding may be involved.

What’s this got to do with pain?

Actually, quite a lot.

One of the things I’ve learned walking Loki is that it’s something I have to do. It’s not optional, like going to the gym. It’s not something I can just do when I feel like it. Frankly, it’s not something I have a lot of choice about.

He’s a dog. He needs to go out. At LEAST four times a day to relieve himself. That’s the default.

Normal routine – that I don’t really think about – is for him to at least go around the block twice a day, go for at least one longer walk, and to hit the sidewalk at least once more.

If he can’t do that – yesterday we got a foot of wet, sloppy nasty snow – I need to think about some other way of meeting his needs.

In other words, NOT walking him requires thought. Walking him does not.

One way of thinking about accommodating the unpredictability of chronic pain and illness might be like that. By default, you get up. Get dressed. Get food. Get out.

It’s not a decision That’s what you do.

Now, there are going to be days you can’t. You need to be flexible. You make it to the couch instead of to work. You have easier, lower energy ways of meeting your needs that require fewer spoons. You may even have a plan for that. There are always going to be days when your pain or your illness makes it impossible to keep going.

But the default is to get up and get things done. The reasonable, flexible alternative is there. It’ll do. But it requires a CHOICE to go that route.

Which brings me back to walking Loki.

I don’t like walking in the rain. Or at least I hate the THOUGHT of walking in the rain.

But once I’m out there, like Loki, it’s usually okay. I may have to think a little, dress appropriately, and carry an umbrella. I will almost certainly change my route to avoid the mud and probably take a short slog and not a long one.

But I’m almost always glad I went.

And that’s another way in which walking a dog is like getting up when you’re having a bad day. If you plan ahead. If you don’t push too hard. If you adjust what you do to fit the conditions. It’s probably better than not having gone.

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