Last weekend, four of us went for a woodland wander; not the usual one man and his dog; but four of us.
The third person was my wife, Tricia, the fourth, Jaime.
Now I do this walk every single day – unless it’s raining heavily and my dog, Cassie, knows the routine and loves the route, the freedom and the routine.
I thought, naively, before having a dog, that doing the same 3.4 mile walk every day for months would become utterly mundane and I’d end up baggy eyed and bored like Bill Murray’s character in “Groundhog Day.” Not a chance. The walk is a joy, not a burden; a pleasure, not a bore. Cassie enjoys it and so do I and Tricia (at weekends).
On Saturday though I had a massive sense of deja vu, as we entered the house.
We used to live in a village in Staffordshire, Waterhouses, sandwiched neatly between Ashbourne and Leek, with wonderful walks on tap every day. We didn’t have a dog, but a baby who we pushed or carried on various weekend treks, but arriving home to our new build in Norfolk, not the Peak District, I felt I’d reconnected with that place and time.
I’ll say this very clearly and unequivocally – when you’re depressed and anxious, you don’t want to exercise and go out.
But, as I know, from a slow recovery from trauma, depression and anxiety, that going out, being active and having a pet are superb mood raisers.
We all know exercise releases endorphins, that feel-good chemical, we all realise fresh air is good for us (walked along a beach recently?) and, if you can stomach the fact that dogs smell, shed hairs, and tie you down a bit, you should get one.
I’ve never had a pet really in childhood or adulthood.
But I’m actually quite smitten by my rescue border collie.
Some days, when I look outside, I could easily, without a dog, say “Sod it, I’m lying down, moping all day.”
I had plenty of practice with that when I was diagnosed and suffering from long-term clinical depression.
But when Cassie stretches her legs, starts chatting in doggie talk and nudging me relentlessly, the 3.4 mile walk begins: woodlands, fresh air, exercise and a canine companion make me feel great, every day of the year.
Depression is not something you snap out of; it’s a torturous recovery; it takes months and years; it debilitates you and your relationships, but recovery is possible – I’m proof of that.
And now: this personal Ground Dog Day makes me smile, every single day.