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The anonymity of dog walking

The anonymity of dog walking


During these walks, as well as getting some exercise, you also share time with people you don't know at all and neither do they know you


Friday, 17 February 2023, 14:55


Ever since I've had a dog again, I've rediscovered a great type of therapy that I'd forgotten about. You could say that it's the opposite of talking about yourself, the opposite of self-knowledge, the opposite of psychoanalysis.

It works thanks to a routine of walks. During these walks, as well as getting some exercise, you also share time with people you don't know at all and neither do they know you. It's the practise of shared anonymity, with the dogs being the common denominator. The conversation is light, the odd comment about the dogs, about what they are doing. "Isn't it great to see them run like that." That's all it takes to be able to spend some time together.

Sometimes I can tell that my companion and I have nothing in common: not style, nor ideology, nor anything else. I can tell from the collar they've put on their dog, a flag, a comment. But that doesn't matter. We care about our dogs and we're happy not to take our relationship any further than that. Sharing time standing still, watching our dogs. I'm very comfortable with that silence. Listening. In the background. Standing just watching the animals has a vegetative feeling that calms me. Being there without being. An empty state. A vow of silence for an hour.

Last week I met a friend for dinner and when we were leaving, I told her I was sorry I hadn't really told her anything, and she said that sometimes it was good to take a break from yourself.

That phrase reminded me of what I do every day when walking my dog. I also read something similar in an article by my new favourite writer, Marta Riezu. She said she feels comfortable speaking to people she doesn't know who make conversation in the greengrocer's or the lift, yet she gets bored at social gatherings with more than six people.

The same thing happens to me. This morning, as I ate the avocado toast my friend Florencia gave me for breakfast at her house in Madrid, we said that we were all getting old, we were all in a bad way, and we all had our moments of madness and our formula for dealing with them.

After explaining my formula I realised that it was logical to start to say that I too go to therapy. Spending time, hours, with people I don't know. With some I just share silence. With others I share anecdotes, unusual dog stories, but I never ever share anything personal. They don't know my name, I don't know theirs, our paths might cross one day out walking, we might stop to chat for twenty minutes, we say goodbye and we'll never meet again.

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