I was 13 when we finally had that big garden that meant we could get a family dog. And what a lovely dog she is. I remember how scruffy and poorly she looked when my mum first got her out of the car on her first day, and trying not to get too hopeful in case the vet said she wouldn't get healthy. She was an extremely skinny, heavily pregnant, one year old Belgian Shepherd, and a week later she had seven pups. The vet was hopeful, and eleven years later our dog still loved and lovely, if not very grey around the muzzle!
But it wasn't just a friend my mum brought home that day. She brought home freedom. Bess, as my mum christened her, was to be mine and my brother's responsibility. We fed her, cleaned up after her and walked her. Before Bess, I didn't know much about my surroundings. We went everywhere by car, and as we'd not long moved into our house, I really didn't know the area too well. Bess changed that.
As I got older, the walks got longer, especially at the weekends when my brother and I would walk all the way to the pine forest. We got another dog too, Samba, who sadly passed away last year. But years later, as I write this, I am living in Hamburg, Germany, and Bess is at home with my family. I don't have my dog to take on walks, but who's to say I can't go walking on my own? It's easy to be lazy and stay at home, or only wander to the park round the corner when I need a bit of outdoor time, but if I didn't go for walks, alone or with company, I wouldn't have discovered the brilliant things I have found in my temporary German home. I have discovered beautiful parks, cool shops and cafés, new places to go and see and experience.
Are you sat at home reading this? Have you got an empty afternoon ahead of you and you're not sure how to spend it? Why not go for a walk, head somewhere you haven't really been before? And on the way, look. Have a wander into shops that catch your eye and take pictures of the pretty scenes you come across. You'll be getting fresh air, stretching your legs and discovering something new, something you can't really experience from a seat in a car.
Nothing says freedom like long walks with furry friends.