Just before Christmas we got a new dog called Pete.

Pete came to us from SAFE animal rescue in Karratha (who do amazing work by the way), where he’d ended up after the ranger decided that Pete’s mum and dad had more dogs than they could possibly cope with.

Pete’s only a year old and would best be described as a Chihuahua cross, but what exactly he’s crossed with is anyone’s guess. He’s a happy little guy and he loves nothing more than the chance to water every plant he passes, one tiny drop at a time. He’s not your average small dog though, because he doesn’t yap or snap and he’s happy to say hello to everyone he meets.

Just down the road from the kids’ school, is a walking track that stretches for miles in either direction. Since school went back at the start of February, I’ve been taking Pete in the car with me to school drop off, then parking next to the trail and taking him for a half hour walk before heading back home to get on with our day.

Watering the plants

Pete watering the plants

From the first day we went walking, I noticed a lot of retired blokes out walking their dogs. Many of the dogs were as ancient as their walkers, so the going was a bit slow, but it didn’t seem to take away from the pleasure of being out of the house. As we passed or overtook each little group, they’d usually look up and smile, in the way that someone who hasn’t really got anywhere else to be, usually does.

Today when we were out, we came across an old man shuffling along the track with the help of two wooden walking sticks. He was out on his own and I couldn’t see a dog anywhere around him. As soon as he heard us coming up behind him, he stopped and turned to face us and with a friendly smile said, “good morning, now who have we got here?”, referring to little Pete.

Pete and I stopped when we reached him and I gave him Pete’s details and a brief rundown of how he’d ended up with us. The old guy was obviously ready for a chat and after listening with interest, he launched into a colourful description of a time in his childhood when the family dog, an Airedale terrier called Petey, had stood guard over his pram while he soaked up the afternoon sun. He told me about how he could remember Petey growling at the neighbourhood kids when they poked their heads into his pram to say hello. He had plenty more details about Petey to add and a few questions to ask about my little Pete. We spent a few minutes more in conversation before Pete and I said our goodbyes and headed off down the track.

We weren’t far past him when a young couple rounded the corner, doing their best to keep up with an enormous white dog. The old guy called out a friendly greeting to the new couple, asking what breed of dog their big fellow was and the conversation between them went on from there.

My meeting with him really struck me. Here was a guy who was going to considerable effort to put himself in a place where he’d have a steady stream of company. He was obviously a sociable sort and I’d imagine that a few conversations with friendly walkers along the way would set him up for the day. I had no idea where he lived or whether he was lonely, but I was pleased that my new role as Pete’s chaperone, would cause our paths to cross again.

I wondered whether I go to that much trouble to achieve what I’m aiming for in my life. Whether I take the easy option most times or whether I’m prepared to push myself beyond what’s convenient?

I’m not sure that I’d give myself an A for effort in all my business networking efforts, but meeting that old guy today made me think about how I could do better. I’ve started this year with a small list of resolutions that I’m determined to work towards, and stepping outside my comfort zone when opportunities present themselves, is one of them.

In the meantime, Pete and I will keep going out. If we’re able to brighten an old fellow’s day with a smile and a few friendly words, that’s got to be good karma for a day in the future when we might find ourselves shuffling down the same track, in need of a bit of company ourselves.