Practicing Mindfulness: Quiet Walks with my Deaf Dog - Part 1

There are many ways of practicing mindfulness. This is a new one for me.

I never thought I’d be walking up this hill with a dog. And a deaf dog at that. My daughter had wanted a dog for some time and so despite all the advice to the contrary and accompanied by all the support to the affirmative, we adopted Lilly a few weeks back. She’s cute and cuddly but with her Aussie Shepherd genes she’s also very smart and very much needing lots of exercise and play. So here I am out walking with her at 6am, just as the early morning light takes over the darkness of the night.

We only found out she was deaf when the smoke alarm went off and she didn’t move a muscle. Then on our first walk we also noticed that when other dogs barked in their yards as we passed by, Lilly didn't even notice. We thought that maybe we should take her back to the shelter where we got her, but she had already made such a big presence in our family that we just had to keep her.

And a deaf dog has some great advantages. Like right now this morning. As I walk I don’t have to say a word to her. There’s no point. “Come here girl!” and “Good Dog!” don’t mean a thing to her. But when I look down at her and smile she wags her little tail and looks at me with her trusting eyes. So my morning walks have become a quiet time - almost a walking meditation and most certainly a time of practicing mindfulness.

We approach the top of the hill where a dairy farm has been located for over a hundred years or more. But now there are no more cows. There were until about a year ago and I used to love the smell of them and the sound of them as I got to this part of my walk. “It’s a pity they are no longer here”, I think, and notice my sadness.

Lilly would have loved the smell of them. Her whole walk each day is a smell adventure. With nose close to the ground she explores the smogasbord of smells along our route. I notice how focused she is - one sniff at a time. I begin to watch my mind, one thought at a time.

I find myself thinking about the farm that is no more. The barns are still there. The fields are still cultivated with corn, probably to feed some "far away" cows. The farmer still lives here with his wife but now has an SUV parked where was once his work truck. “A much better vehicle to travel in to Florida for the winter now he no longer has to be present to cows each morning”, I'm thinking, and then notice my imagination at work.

My thoughts turn to the topic of change. Everything changes and is forever changing. We may from time to time sense the illusion of permanence but in reality it does not exist. I’m sad that the farm has gone but grateful to have experienced it when it was here. And now, here I am with my deaf dog, practicing mindfulness. That’s a change too. And without needing to talk to her, I have more time to reflect and watch my mind. I can see we are in for some interesting walks in the future, this little deaf dog and me. She supports my practice tremendously.

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