Walkers walk. Walkers of dogs let pets take them for walks, a significant difference.
My preferred routes often take me through the local streets, parks, and ravines of Toronto. While many of these parks have off-leash dog run areas, I grew up in a small town in rural Southern Ontario so when I was young everywhere was an off-leash dog run area. Today we fence in our pets, and designate park plots for pooches to poop.
Don’t get me wrong, I do like dogs. It’s just that I cannot always say the same for walkers of dogs, aka dog owners. I do make an exception for dog-walkers, aka the pro’s. In my neighbourhood there are lots of families that own dogs and who employ professional dog-walkers to exercise Fido during the day. Generally speaking, these folks are just that, professionals, and keep their charges under control. Sharing the path with them and 4-5 bounding terriers is tolerable.
Walkers of dogs, however, are like amateurs in many things – long on enthusiasm and short on technique. In normal times, on weekends there would be the unleashing of the hounds as the walkers of dogs came out, families with their pets. In today’s COVID times, this is a daily occurrence. In many cases, these non-professional dog walkers fall short of the standards set by their workaday employees. Let me count the ways
Poochie is precious; all my attention must be on him
Poochie is rambunctious; isn’t he cute!
Poochie is curious; ooh, what have you found in that man’s shoe?
Poochie is poopie; over there Poochie, poop over there!
Poochie is ignored; can’t you see I’m on my phone!
Poochie is in my way
Come on folks – share the space and smile at your neighbour. Poochie and just want to walk.
I guess the title of this post has two meanings. When will I stop walking? Will it be because I get sick? Will it be because my wife or son or someone I’ve been in contact with gets sick, so that I have to go into self-isolation? Will it be because the province or city completely locks everything down?
And then the other meaning is broader – when will this epidemic end? When will restrictions lift, and some normalcy return? When do I have to stop criss-crossing the street, doing the the covid dance to keep my 2m separation from anyone else?
So which comes first – me being shut down or the epidemic ending? It’s what everyone is thinking. It looks like we’re talking months for all restrictions to be lifted, and probably at least a few more weeks here in Toronto before even a slight loosening. Recent briefings from the Ontario government talked about being prepared for 2nd and 3rd waves that stretch out 18 or even 24 months from the start this past March, and for a gradual, step-by-cautious-step return to what we hope is the old normal over that time. We’re in this for a longish haul it seems.
So when you look at it like that, a certain fatalistic, carpe diem attitude is likely. Remember that Bobby McFerrin song? – Don’t Worry, Be Happy
And can I just take a moment to remind you about some dos and don’ts about walking while we’re in the middle of this:
Do – keep 2m apart while making space for others by stepping into a driveway or off the curb onto the roadway if you need to
Do – try to walk on the left side of the street so that if you have to step into the road you can see the traffic coming towards you
Do – give extra space for someone who might be particularly vulnerable to COVID-19
Do – smile at your neighbours and fellow walkers 😉 – we’re all in this together
Don’t – walk about in 2s, 3s, and 4s crowding others off the street
Don’t – forget to look up from your smart phone
Don’t – ignore the birds, flowers, sunshine, and SPRING! now that you can actually hear, smell, and appreciate them
Don’t – be that person who’s so self-absorbed that they actually think this epidemic is all about them and how they’re the only ones inconvenienced by it all
And oh by the way, let’s hope we keep that idea once this finally settles, because waiting in the wings there’s climate change to be tackled, not to mention paying back the $billions borrowed to fight COVID-19. We’ve got a challenging decade in front of us. If the 1920’s were known as the Roaring ’20’s, then this coming decade may come to be known as the Pooring 20’s, or better yet the Soaring 20’s as we not only get back on our feet, we use our new-found resolve to face even bigger challenges. Humans are smart, resilient, toolmakers – 5 million years of evolution have seen to that.
In the meantime, embrace the little things – like a box of Rice Krispies when that’s what you crave.
Over the past few weeks, as I’ve been walking in our neighbourhood, I’ve been taking pictures of the many signs and sidewalk chalk art that I’ve come across.
They’re a mixture of happy thoughts and admonitions. There have been some that are too big to capture – I saw a chalk art design today that took the whole width of the roadway on Manor Road just west of Mount Pleasant.
Humans are nothing if not adaptable, and one of the ways we’re adapting to COVID-19 is to create art. It’s a reminder that we’ll get through this.
When I wrote about taking walks during the COVID-19 epidemic a couple of weeks ago, I knew that social changes were coming, but even so I didn’t that things would change as quickly as they have.
Just 3 weeks ago, COVID-19 was serious but still something that impacted someone else, somewhere else. Now it’s here, in Toronto, and very much hitting home. The city and the province have declared states of emergency. Neighbours and acquaintances are in self-isolation. At least one relative has tested positive for COVID-19. Our parents are tucked up at home and sitting tight. Stores and shops are closed or only offering delivery. Our son is home and is probably done school for the year (thankfully he received early acceptance from Dalhousie University so we don’t have to worry about marks).
It seems that plans are being adjusted and changed day to day. And that’s just the precautionary impact. So far, we don’t actually know anyone who’s been seriously ill, but it feels as if it’s only a matter of time.
So there’s a carpe diem feeling in the air to some extent, which is reinforced by spring fever when the sun comes out and then tamped down and mixed a feeling of uncertainty and doubt, especially when it is gloomy and rainy. You want to keep living and enjoy life, because it appears to be just a matter of time before a full-on city-wide lockdown is declared, or worse, you contract it yourself. At the same time, you know more is coming and that we’re still on the bad side of the curve.
Walking is a distraction in times like these, and of course we’re all feeling cooped up and in need of exercise. For the first time in weeks, I’ve actually gotten out 6 days out of 7 this week. I try to keep my distance from others, so I weave from one side of the street to the other as people approach, or walk in the roadway. There are lots of people still out walking dogs, especially as the off-leash dog parks are now closed, so there are still more than a few people out on the streets, and anyone with young kids at home is trying to keep them active. All of it means that in some ways it’s actually harder to find peace and quiet on a walk, even though vehicle traffic is lighter.
One thing I’ve noticed is that, in addition to the usual flotsam left behind by the receding snow tide, there is a new line of jetsam – latex and plastic gloves. 1000 years from now, will archeologists puzzle over this clue?
It’s quieter though – you can hear the birds, the chuckle of squirrels and the rustle of the breeze in the trees. The air is cleaner too, I have to admit that. Turns out that taking cars off the road makes it easier to breath – who knew! It’s ironic that with petrol cheaper than it’s been in almost 20 years and with light traffic about, now is the time for a road trip, but no one wants to be far from home and meeting strangers.
Will that shrink our horizons? Just a few weeks ago, people thought little of jumping on a plane or in the car and buzzing off to New York or Montreal for a weekend. Now we hunker down within a 1-2 km radius – New York is the other side of the moon right now, and in full lockdown even if we could get there.
So I keep walking, even if it’s just in our flat. I can do 5-10 minutes at a time, pacing back and forth across the living room and doing stair climbs as well, and can get it up to 4,000 or 5,000 steps in a day that way. Mostly I try to go out and walk the neighbourhood, careful to touch nothing on the way in or out (I’m getting good at using my elbow to turn the door handle and my foot to push it open). Our son has put a big sign on the powder room door as you enter the flat, to remind us all to WASH HANDS.