At the New Year I was determined to do something during 2011 that might make me fitter. Not wishing to embarrass myself in a gym of any description or pay their fees without guarantees I’d decided to look for an alternative. I remember writing about my thoughts in this column on walking more as a way of improving my overall fitness and feeling of well-being. To achieve even this I would need some level of discipline to prevent me from ‘crying-off’ from any exercise routine, perhaps conveniently citing inclement weather as an excuse. For me that would herald the slippery slope to being right back at square one by doing nothing at all. I then heard of a company that was seeking people to walk dogs, other peoples dogs, every day and whatever the weather. Each animal would require a walk of at least 30 minutes or a full hour depending upon the owner’s requirements. This was the answer. It contained all the aforementioned elements required with the added bonus of being paid to get fitter. ‘After all’ I thought, ‘How difficult can it be to walk a dog or two?’ Well, it’s a more complicated business than one might suspect. Those folk unfamiliar with dogs sometimes find it difficult to understand that all dogs, like people, have personalities which determine their treatment. Even if one were to walk at only 2 miles an hour for two hours a day, well, that’s a minimum daily walking routine of 4 miles: 20 miles a week. Most of the dogs that I walk are reasonably affable, being family pets, but they are individuals with temperaments to suit and this that can make my job either difficult or very pleasurable. I carry with me a pocket full of ‘treats’, poo-bags, gloves and a warm hat. In my car I keep my waterproofs, two changes of footwear, additional clothing, two types of dog lead, four towels for wiping my charges down, an emergency kit and sanitation wipes. One has to be aware of the various laws to which all owners and walkers must adhere, with the obvious one being the control over fouling. It frustrates me to see dog mess in the street or public parks. There is no excuse for this and, to my mind, the owners who allow this to happen should be prosecuted without exception. However unpleasant the process it takes only a second or two to pick it up in a plastic bag. I just hold my breath and get on with it. In just about every park there is a dedicated bin specifically for the disposal of such waste. Easy. Other owners allow their dogs to run free in public places. This causes no end of problems for the responsible owner/walker who keeps their dog on a lead. I’ve yet to see any real evidence of my body benefiting from my walking, but there is no doubt that I’m beginning to feel better for having taken that first step.