If you'd ever suggested that I should get a dog for the good of my health, I'd have scoffed. Of course, I'd never had one, so what did I know? Nevertheless, I had zero interest in getting a dog, for health reasons or any other.
But fate intervened.
My son had found his hands full with a traumatized rescued three-legged dog. He couldn't meet her needs for reassurance and constant companionship.
Cleo was a sweet dog, who'd been injured after either getting loose or being dumped somewhere. She'd had to have her broken leg amputated by the Humane Society. Cleo had already lost her family once. We couldn't make her go through that again.
So we got a dog.
At the time I had a bad knee, and could hardly walk so she didn't get any exercise to speak of for her first few weeks with us. Eventually I was able to hobble out into the backyard and toss sticks for her to chase, so she got some running in. But I couldn't take her for a tour around the neighborhood because walking on pavement was just too painful for me.
After a month of this, we tried the pavement. I only went as far as the first Stop sign, which made for about a two-minute walk. I made it to the Stop sign, and limped back home, in pain but victorious.
I'd been going to a chiropractor for my knee, and was seeing some improvement. She encouraged me to keep on walking Cleo a short distance each day as physical therapy. Very gradually, I increased our distance from one Stop sign to halfway to the next one, then dragging back home and off my feet.
As the weeks and months went by, we were eventually able to go all the way around the block. Now we were moving for about 10 minutes per trip, and the pain, both during and afterward, was far less than it had been.
That was about three years ago. We've been walking like pros for a long time now. We go to the park and meander, then head for home, without limping or repercussions. A half an hour walk or more is nothing to Cleo and has become a mere nothing for me as well.
Had it not been for Cleo and her need for exercise, I know that I would have taken the easy way out that first winter. It was cold. It was windy. I was crippled.