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Dr. Mary Ann Hittle- Thoughts from retirement

        Retirement is wonderful! I needed to say that, realizing that I am preaching to the choir regarding those already savoring the rewards of their years of labor. I apologize to those who are still bound by alarm clocks, crazy-busy schedules and work stress---maybe you don’t necessarily relish hearing about the pleasures of retirement…  But, I do hope that you might obtain some vicarious pleasure from a retiree, and do wish you job satisfaction and deserved appreciation for your hard work. And, I hope you can envision an eventual wonderful retirement on the horizon.So, having said that, I am finding that I have plenty to keep me busy, but yet do miss my interaction with the wonderful pets and pet owners with whom I shared so much. I’m hoping that writing blogs will not only keep me in touch, but allow me to share information that you may find informative, or at least entertaining. If you have any ideas for topics that you would like me to write about, please share those ideas. E-mail us at [email protected]
        I suspect everyone is very unique in determining the best activity in retirement. One of the things I’ve most enjoyed is the luxury of spending relaxed time with our 3 cats and 2 dogs. (And, of course, also with my husband!) And, specifically, engaging in wonderful dog walks is a high point.
        I am fortunate that Hobbs, our Border Collie, and Karma, our Sheltie, also share my enthusiasm. (Probably not very unique for dogs, right? Walking has to be right up there with squirrel chasing and gutting stuffed toys!) The three of us engage in 2 types of walks. In one type, we do a fast paced, move along, no sniffing, aerobic walk. This is good for cardiac health for all of us and, for Hobbs and me, it helps to maintain flexibility in those aging joints and strengthen not-so-young muscles. Hobbs is 12 ½ years old, and I am… “mature”, and we need to work to maintain our physical health. I think it is critical (allowing for physical limitations, of course) to keep both ourselves and our senior dogs engaged in activity. My dad, who passed at 94 years of age, said the secret to a long life was to “keep moving or they’ll cover you up”, and I think this is true for both humans and our dogs. We all need to play and move.  For Karma, who is 3 years old and never tires (her breeder warned us that she was “busy”), it is a great way to burn energy and “take the edge off”.
         Our second type of walk is a relaxed, but focused stroll, accomplished on nature trails or in county parks. The dogs get to go at their chosen pace, stopping to intently sniff the trails (or whatever!) of wild animals, and thoroughly investigate the environment. While they’re doing that, it’s a good opportunity for me to slow down, live in the moment, and appreciate nature. I also gain an appreciation for the dogs’ amazing sense of smell, as they both stop at one spot and nose each other out trying to get at the scent. Dogs have around 300 million scent receptors in their nasal passages, as compared to a human’s measly 6 million, and the portion of a canine brain dedicated to interpreting scents is 40 times larger than ours. So, when our dogs spend time sniffing things out, they are exercising a large part of their brains, maybe like us doing a crossword puzzle. It is a wonderful type of brain exercise, serving also to reduce stress and allow for a comfortably tired dog at the end of the walk.
           I find the appreciation of similarities and differences between me and my dogs to be not only fascinating, but also a key to enjoying our time together. It’s tempting, sometimes, to say to them, “Come on, let’s go. There’s nothing there to smell.” as they intently focus on a seemingly bare spot of ground. But, I could imagine the dogs saying to me, as I might stop to enjoy a beautiful scenic fall view, with multiple shades of reds and greens, “Come on, let’s go. There’s nothing there to see.”  Unless, of course, there was a slight movement of a squirrel. (SQUIRREL!!!) Dogs can detect even slight movement much better than humans do, but the color sensitive cells in their eye retinas don’t detect reds and greens. The world through their eyes is a mixture of varying shades of yellows, blues and greys; they don’t see reds and greens as we do. They also don’t see colors or the world as vividly or as detailed as we do. It has been said that they read about the world through their noses, whereas we use our eyes.
            Whatever our differences or similarities may be, that bond that we share with our dogs is so very special---again, I suspect I’m preaching to the choir because all of you experience that daily. I truly hope each of you, no matter your stage in life, can take some time every day to savor that bond. And, maybe to enjoy a wonderful walk together…
            If you find that you and your dog don’t make a good walking team, click here to learn about trainers who might help with dog walking manners. Or, stop in with your dog at APC to allow one of the wonderful techs to explain EZ Walk Harnesses, and determine the right fit for your dog.0403301001525374195.jpg

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