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We’re getting our annual January thaw in February this year. The weekend brought balmy temps in the 30s, and I took advantage of the nice weather to take the dog for a walk on Saturday and Sunday. The dog in question is our 13-year-old German shepherd-golden retriever-chow-collie mix, Brigit. She is usually escorted in public by My Lovely Wife — even though when we moved into this neighborhood last summer, our two former children/housemates and I enthused over the opportunity to wander along the river or down by Minnehaha Falls, dog in tow. That didn’t exactly pan out, which is generally OK with MLW, who likes to wander the neighborhood with Brigit most mornings after she has her tea.

I bring this up because, like getting to the gym on a regular basis, walking the dog requires that I overcome some inertia. After a busy week at the office, there’s nothing I like better than kicking back with a good book (or writing another inspired blog post!) and gradually decompressing before I hit the entry ramp leading to Monday morning. This is an easier decision when it’s 20 below zero. When the weather is glorious, a little voice in my head tends to pound away at me until I give in. It says something like, “What are you doing in the house, you miserable slacker? How many days like this do you think you’re going to get before your time on this earthly plane expires? Now, get your butt up out of that chair and get out there!!”

It’s a persuasive argument. But sometimes I need an objective, a practical reason for pulling on my jacket and boots and heading into the public sphere — no matter what the weather is. On Saturday I noticed I was down to my last bottle of beer in the fridge, so I figured that was a pretty good reason to venture out. I could trek across the bridge to Village Liquors — maybe three-quarters of a mile away — and restock. And, if I’m heading out anyway, why not take the dog?

How to Improve Your Memory, Simply

I pause here to draw your attention to a recent study, published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that suggests walking regularly may expand your hippocampus, the region in your brain associated with memory. I was thinking of this when Brigit and I set out for the liquor store, and it made me stride a bit more purposefully than normal. Brigit, on the other hand, has no interest in expanding her hippocampus. Walking for her is all about sniffing and peeing. So, I was reduced to shuffling and stopping at irregular intervals, and I could vaguely picture my hippocampus inflating and deflating at unpredictable moments. Still, by the time we reached the bridge, the pavement was clear and the mysterious canine signposts that so enthrall Brigit were nowhere to be smelled, so we picked up the pace. While we walked, I remembered we were headed to buy beer, so I figured my longer strides were having a good effect.

Brigit, I should mention here, is not the most sociable of dogs. At the dog park over by the river, she’s just as likely to frolic with a strange dog as chomp down on their jugular. So, I’m always a bit nervous going out with her in public. If we meet another dog on the sidewalk, you never know what’s going to transpire. That makes it risky to tie her up outside of a liquor store, or any other retail establishment, so as we approached Liquor Village I decided I’d just shorten up on the leash, dash in with her in tow, grab a six-pack, and hope for the best.

Thankfully, the joint was empty. I grabbed my beer, paid the clerk (who handed me a dog treat), and got out of there in no time flat. We headed back over the bridge leaving no casualties behind and feeling generally upbeat about the state of my hippocampus.

Maybe that explained why I reprised the dog walk on Sunday. I remembered that I had already laid in a supply of beer, but I also recalled that it wasn’t such a bad idea to get outside with the dog. Besides, MLW had gone off on her bicycle for the first time this winter, braving the narrowed thoroughfares, gutter puddles, and ice patches. I couldn’t really come up with a satisfying excuse for staying in. So Brigit and I sloshed around Minnehaha Park for bit, watching young people climbing around among the ice formations below the falls. No dogs here, either, which made the journey, on the whole, almost tranquil.

I was on a roll at that point, so when we arrived back home, I grabbed the ladder from the garage and climbed up to the roof to inspect our ice dams, which were thawing so nicely that I resisted the temptation to go at them with my hatchet. I did scrape away at them a bit with my roof rake — a great core and upper-body workout in any weather.

My rather convoluted point here is that, once you overcome your inertia, exercise occurs rather easily. And if it involves grabbing a six-pack on the way, even better — a cold beer tastes mighty good when you’re ready to relax.

Thoughts to share?

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