a sleepy beagle yawns

Our dogs are rarely more tired than we are. 

In the past year, Dominique, a close friend of mine, and Susan, my mother, have adopted puppies: a high-energy English cocker and a semi-manic Portuguese water dog, respectively. Both aforementioned humans now nap at every opportunity, are unable to finish 'serious' novels, and don't venture out much, unless it's to walk their pups. I see a lot less of them, but we chat on the phone, when I get to hear how zonked they are.

Somewhat sadistically, I enjoy hearing them whine about their exhaustion. I feel less alone. I've been whingeing for years. On work days I come home after hours of dog walking, observe my dogs' exuberantly wagging tails, and announce with fake enthusiasm, "First I'll stuff my face, then we'll go out." At that moment there's nothing I'd rather not do than go for another dog walk.

Feeling like we're out of fuel is a an occupational hazard for dog walkers, especially if the walker has three dogs of her own, all young ones, as I do. Over the years I've developed numerous strategies for overcoming lassitude and getting my ass out the door. I was going to share these treasured tips just with Dominique (I try not to give my mother unsolicited advice, and she tries likewise). But as we're in the midst of the cold, grey, draining days of January/February, I thought I'd violate The Fleabag's "Don't be didactic!" rule and pass them along in this post.


Dominique and her puppy Emma

The energetic Emma is Dominique's first pup.

tip one: the athlete's mindset
The first trick is known to any competitive athlete. Remind yourself, firmly, that "how I feel before a workout has nothing to do with how I'll feel during a workout" — only for 'workout' substitute 'dog walk.' And here's the good news: unlike the obsessive Olympic athlete, if you get fifteen minutes into a walk and still feel like crap (rare, but it happens), you can stop and come home. No medals are riding on this.

tip two: do five minutes of dog training
Most dogs get very excited by training, and their energy buzz is contagious. I usually start with favourite exercises like 'touch' and 'spin', and then ask for something challenging, like 'jump in the tub!' Watching McCracken struggle to conquer his fear to step foot in the bathtub inspires me to overcome my own dread of heading out the door. After just five minutes of training, there's a general 'Yes we can!' vibe that gets us all out on a walk, if not always into the tub. (I can't lure Mack Crack, willingly and consistently, into even an empty tub. If he's ever skunked, we're sunk).

tip three: heavy breathing
Open the window, even if it's minus 20, and take 5-10 long, deep breaths (adding a chest thump is optional). This is my rather literal take on inspiration.

tip four: chocolate
Before you get too excited, I'm talking about medicinal chocolate, the kind a friend once bit into and declared "This tastes a lot like gravel." I refer to unsweetened baking chocolate, which has enough caffeine to get you going, but (unlike coffee) not so much you'll get the shakes or insomnia. The version made by Camino is quite creamy, barely gravel-like at all. Novices can mix it with a dark, slightly sweetened chocolate until they're ready to take it all black.


a box of baker's chocolate

I admit it's an acquired taste.

 And, while we're on the subject of foodstuffs, tip 4(B): protein. Whenever I complain about my dragged-out carcass state to my friend Ann, who happens to be a registered holistic nutritionist, she cagily asks, "Are you getting enough protein?"

A long pause, and then my answer: "Probably not." A lot of my female friends are or were vegetarians, and we tend not to monitor our protein or eat enough of it. So add medicinal protein to your shopping list. And don't just eat more peanut butter, which in my opinion is more valuable as a fat than a protein.

Of course, I write this after eating a potato and some cheese for dinner tonight. And chocolate.

tip five: comedy clips on YouTube
Ten minutes of good comedy will flip you from ennui to exuberance. I recommend UK comedians, who tend to be more quick-thinking and left-leaning than their North American counterparts. Also, it was while watching British comedy quiz shows that I came across one of my now-favourite Canadian comics, Katherine Ryan ("Trump should be afraid of Canadian women. We start each day with a Labatts and an abortion, we put on nasty women crop tops, and we're coming for him").

Tip 5 (B): Listen to or watch ten minutes of any news program. These days, chances are good that your blood will boil, you will be triggered up the wazoo, and voilà, you will have energy for a dog walk. On the downside, you may spend the first ten minutes of it fuming, before the relaxing effect of the walk kicks in.


cd cover: hypnotherapy

I may be imagining it, but the dogs seem more alert post-CD as well.

tip six: power nap
OK, it's true you can feel more groggy than go-go after a short nap. But I find that if I listen/nap to a 20 minute hynotherapy CD, for example 'Wake Up Fresh and Alert,' I mysteriously wake up fresh and alert. And this is also the case if I listen to less relevant tracks like 'Develop Patience' or 'Emotional Calm,' two other CDs often on my pre-walk playlist (for reasons obvious to those who have read my previous post, 'When can I get mad at my dog?').

tip seven: walk warm up
When I'm truly enervated, I take a test spin. I leave my apartment unit, walk up to the third floor, descend the far staircase, and walk outside through the courtyard, back to my unit. During this stroll, I remind myself of tip one.

So we're back to where we started. For those of you who are dog-tired from walking the dog, try some of my tips. Let me know how it goes. And if they don't work, you can always hire a dog walker...



An example of UK comedy quiz show (featuring Katherine Ryan!):

Patricia McConnell on getting your dog into a bath:

Hypnotherapy, wake up fresh and alert

If you aren't eating enough protein, don't even know how much you should be eating, or suspect that your food consumption pattern does not enhance your emotional/physical well being:

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