Michelle Martin

A good walk

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

I had to buy a new harness for the dog this week because the old one, after five years of near daily walks and car rides, finally wore out and one of the metal buckles for adjusting the straps broke.

It lasted long enough — and seemed comfortable enough for the dog — that I bought the same one.

After all, Elly is used to it. It’s part of the routine: I tell Elly we’re going for a walk, or I just pick up my sneakers or hat at a certain time in the afternoon, and she gets up from wherever she’s imitating a throw rug and heads for the door, tail wagging so hard her whole back end moves.

When I open the door, she stops on the top step of the porch, nosing at the harness hanging over the rail.

Of course a walk is a high point of the day for Elly. There are other dogs to see, and the possibility of treats for not pulling at the leash to get near them. There are birds and squirrels and rabbits and chickens. There are the smells of food cooking from restaurants and open kitchen windows and backyard grills. There’s long grass to snack on, and cool short grass to roll in. It’s a cornucopia for the senses, and sometimes Elly barks from sheer excitement when we set off.

But it’s also a daily pleasure for me, a time to reconnect with the outside world, to feel the fresh air and notice as the flowers in neighborhood yards go from crocuses to daffodils to tulips to roses to daylilies and hydrangeas. It offers the opportunity for friendly interaction with fellow walkers and neighbors in their yards, who can’t help but smile at a happy dog. Having a dog leads to better physical and mental health, according to multiple studies. Part of that, apparently, is because people with dogs walk more.

Even taking the same route, mostly every day, there’s a sense of motion, a sense of progress, a sense of journey.

And while many parents are advised that the car is a good place to talk with kids because it removes the pressure of being face to face, it has nothing on talking while walking the dog.

The sense of mobility is something we as Catholics need to hold onto. We are, we proclaim, a pilgrim people, and we are engaged right now in a synod on synodality, or a journey together about what it means for us to journey together.

What it means is something that none of us can answer alone, any more than one of us can say for sure what the route is, or what the most important things are for us to notice. But if we are watching and listening for the voice of the Holy Spirit in this process, what each of us sees and hears — what each of notices — is bound to be important.

So next time you take a walk, pay attention.



  • family life