It's time to walk outside, doggone it

A great motivator, in the form of a golden-furred dog with soulful brown eyes and a goofy grin on her face, encourages me to walk outdoors on even the most brutal winter days.

A golden retriever stands on a gravel road with snow on either side of it.
Nova, Ann Bailey's golden retriever, enjoys walks even on cold, windy winter days.
Ann Bailey / Agweek

When the snow begins piling up, my desire to walk outdoors diminishes — especially on cold, windy days.

The prospect of being buffeted by winds that sweep across the Arctic-like tundra that is the prairie in winter makes me want to curl up on the sofa, under a blanket, with a cup of hot cocoa and a book.

But then a great motivator, in the form of a golden-furred dog with soulful brown eyes and a goofy grin on her face, appears before me, either as an image in my mind or in person.

I wrestle with the decision of whether to sit down or get up. But the repercussions that I will face later from the 2-year-old, 60-pound bundle of energy that I named Nova makes the decision for me. I know that if I don’t take her on a walk, she will be zooming around the kitchen at supper and jumping on top of me when I sit down afterward in the family room.

I also know that once I get outside and start moving, I will be glad that I chose to do that. Before Nova and I head outside, though, I have to get dressed for our expedition. I put on a pair of insulated coveralls, then my winter parka, a neck/face warmer and stocking cap before lacing up my tennis shoes on windy days that make it feel even colder than the thermometer reads. Heavy socks keep my feet warm, so I go with tennis shoes, instead of boots, which weigh me down and chafe my feet.


Once I’m dressed for my expedition, I check my coat pocket to make sure I have a few dog treats and a leash, then open the door and watch Nova bolt down the steps and into the snowy yard, where she runs, rolls and scoops up snow with her nose.

The first few hundred yards of our walk is protected by trees that buffer the wind, so it’s not until we get out of them and onto the road that I feel the full effects of the weather. Even if the wind is howling, I typically don’t get cold, but walking into it requires determination to propel forward as it pushes back on me.

Nova, however, is undaunted by the wind and runs ahead of me, then out into the fields, where she turns in circles in the snow before floundering through the ditches and back onto the road. Watching her delighted antics motivates me to keep going, and usually, I walk for 2 miles, and sometimes 3 down the road. Nova runs more than that on her treks in and out of the fields, especially if she sees birds.

Though she's not a hunting dog, she has the retriever instinct and the birds, which fly tantalizingly out of reach, are a source of great interest for her. The bond she has with me, combined with the treats in my pocket, keep her from going too far afield before she flies back to me, ears flapping and tongue hanging out.

By the time we get back from our walks, Nova has burned off some energy and mine has been renewed. Being outside in the cold air and getting exercise is invigorating and gives me a sense of accomplishment.

Occasionally Nova’s naughtiness makes me wonder why I ever thought getting a puppy at my age was a good idea, but when I refocus and start thinking about her positive traits, which include being an excellent motivator and walking pal, I am doggone glad I made that decision.

Ann Bailey lives on a farmstead near Larimore, N.D., that has been in her family since 1911. You can reach her at 218-779-8093 or

Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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