Love is very powerful. I’ve been voluntarily walking Pickle for some months now, and have got to know her quite well. She is the first dog outside of my own pets that I’ve ever walked; a delicate mini poodle with a gorgeous personality. She recognises me now, wagging her tail excitedly as I greet her owner. I can hardly get her collar on for her joyfully running about.

And then we start walking.

Dog Walking Poodle

Rights; John Murphy

Instantly, she quietens down. Her mouth sets firm, almost as though a sudden calm has washed over her. She is obedient and mature, trotting alongside me without a single tug of the lead.

She is like this for the rest of the walk. But as we near home, she begins to twitch; as we walk down the stairs to the front door, her tail wags madly; and by the time we’re inside, I have to let her off the leash because she is almost strangling herself in her attempt to return to her favourite person, which is of course, her owner Mrs Valerie Wooding.

The interesting thing is, I have found dog walking often gives me little reminders about love and trust. The first time I met Pickle and Valerie, I actually saw the concern the little dog had to say goodbye even for a few minutes, and the peace of mind on behalf of both parties once they had reunited. I think this was the day I realised that dog walkers are trusted with something very precious. We are being temporarily allowed into a special bond between owner and pet; not only volunteering, but being embraced by a family. This sense of worth and responsibility has overlapped into my everyday life, and I feel it has helped me grow as a person.

Dog walking is not about volunteering to make yourself feel good. It’s about personal development, about being trusted into a special relationship. Most of all, it’s a lesson in love and friendship, and realising the awesome fact that dog really is man’s best friend.

Dog walkers give a small amount of time and help and in return experience the satisfaction of knowing we are assisting a beautiful bond between soul mates.

I’ve heard people say animals can’t love or have emotions, which is − as any animal lover will tell you − the most ridiculous assumption ever. Mrs Wooding is, without a doubt, the object of Pickle’s affection, the one who has kept the fourteen-year-old Pickle young. When the two are together, the fragile dog is ecstatic, active and clearly aware of how much she is loved.

I experienced this in a rather poignant way when recently, after returning from our walk, I let Pickle off the lead, and, as usual, she raced through the door. But − to my surprise − she instantly came back out. As it turns out, Mrs Wooding had gone to visit a friend and was not inside the flat. Pickle paused, sniffed, and to my shock, ran off.

I ran after her in dismay, fretting that she was upset or lost. I searched for a good few minutes before running into a nurse, who must have seen the look on my face. When I asked her about Pickle, she merely laughed! Apparently, Pickle had found Mrs Wooding about five minutes before, in another flat. “Don’t even worry about it, dear,” the nurse had said, smiling: “She always finds her way back home.”

Article originally published in ‘Fetch’ Magazine. For more information on becoming a dog walker, visit ‘The Cinnamon Trust’ website.

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About the author

Leah Burke

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A third year Literature student. Equalist, artist and health enthusiast.