The Joy of Walking My Dog, Bernie

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by Brittany Foster |

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My dog, Bernie, turned 1 last week. In the nine months that I’ve had him, he has taught me more about unconditional love than I could ever teach myself.

I wake up to puppy snuggles and feel his tiny paws resting somewhere on my body. My days are better because of him, and I find it hard to remember what life was like before he came into it.

While each day with him has been filled with many humorous, loving, and joyous moments, my favorite ones are our walks early in the morning and at night before bed. 

Morning walks with Bernie help give me a fresh start to every day. Our night walks restore my strength when I feel weak or defeated by what the previous hours have thrown at me. Walks with Bernie remind me about the importance of staying physically active, help me appreciate the beauty around me, and calm my mind and its racing thoughts. 

Bernie waits for me to wake each morning to take him on his first walk of the day. (Photo by Brittany Foster)

A year ago, I was afraid to be physically active. I was anxious to get my body moving again after having a thoracotomy. When I first brought Bernie home, I feared I wouldn’t have enough physical energy to keep up with a puppy. Looking back, I am grateful for the energy I discovered.

Walking has helped me increase my step count during the day, and I have noticed small physical differences. Within the first few months of having Bernie, my stamina increased and my love and appreciation for the outdoors has returned. 

Bernie and I walk on a local nature trail. (Photo by Brittany Foster)

Sometimes our outings turn into faster walks or jogs. When Bernie picks up his pace with his short legs, it improves my day. He motivates me to push myself physically, but he also seems to know when we both need a break. As a result, I am in better shape than I have been in a long time.

I also am thankful that Bernie’s walking schedule has also given me a new alarm clock in the morning and the pick-me-up I need throughout the day. 

Walks with Bernie also have helped my mental health in ways I didn’t know I needed. They help to clear my head and set intentions for the day. I believe life has a way of showing us what we need at the appropriate time. I needed to learn how to appreciate the beauty around me and find some peace and comfort in the “little things.” 

Bernie loves the ocean and enjoys walking on the beach. (Photos by Brittany Foster)

Bernie stops to smell almost every flower on our adventures together. Initially, I wanted to rush him along, but these pauses soon became the best part of our walks together, because they allowed me to take in the beauty of my surroundings, such as the stillness of each morning and the colors of the sunrise and sunset. I seemed to have been missing these things in my life. 

My mind had always raced with thoughts of the future or anxiety of the past. Focusing more on the beauty of each walk, the strength I feel in my body, and the appreciation for what’s around me has helped ground me more in the present.

The greatest thing about Bernie is that he only asks for my love and presence in the moment. 


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