What a Dog Will Teach You About Commuting

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The task of getting to work is something I never thought would be an adventure. That is, before I adopted my rescue dog, Norman.

Before Norman, my commute to work would generally consist of a hasty bike ride through the neighborhood or a frustrating drive through one traffic light (if you’re from L.A., yes I know I have nothing to complain about). I would wake up at 6 a.m. and think, “Wow, look at all of the time I have today before work. I should probably make a very involved breakfast and paint a masterpiece. Oh, and organize my garage.” Then, in a crazy turn of events, it would be 7:50 a.m. and I still didn’t have any pants on. Inevitably, a leisurely bike ride along a winding river trail bike path was no longer an option. I would be forced to take the less scenic, back-alley path to work, peddling as hard as I could while holding my coffee in one hand and steering with the other. And, if I were really pushing it on time, I’d have to endure the always-dreaded drive to work with one frustrating traffic light and a week’s worth of road rage.

The day I got Norman, all of that changed. I used to think that if I was outside for 10 minutes before work, I was taking advantage of the time during my commute. It turns out, I wasn’t. Having Norman on the walk, ride or skateboard to the office has given me an entirely new perspective about the act of commuting and showed me how to truly enjoy it. You see, Norman can never be rushed. If you try, he’ll just hang his head even lower and drag his toenails as he saunters along. So rush, we do not.

First, Norman is not a morning dog. He eats one kibble at a time, bringing it from his bowl, across the room to his bed where he finishes chewing it. Norman’s approach to life can be summarized with how he eats his food. It is the opposite of me in every way and that is why I like to believe we have been paired up. When I’m running in circles trying to find which way is up in the morning, Norman is just focusing on eating one kibble of food at a time.

Norman is immune to outside influence. Regardless of my rushed tone, hurried claps and calls, Norman does what Norman wants. Not in a disobedient way (usually), it’s almost meditative how he approaches our commute. He takes his time and cares enough to sniff every blade of grass that passes in front of his nose. He makes note of all the twig-tasting possibilities along the way and chooses the very best one to carry with him and then the very best place to leave that twig 30 seconds later. After a sufficient amount of sniffing and tasting, he moves on to find the prime location for his morning poo. It’s quite a dance too. He has to circle his chosen spot at least four times before he can fully relax. Then, he makes the most awkward eye contact with me while doing his thing. After that, he feels much more spry, there is a skip in his step, and our pace to work speeds up to a ripping 20-minutes per mile.

Norman might be frustratingly slow at times, but he has completely changed my perspective. We are lucky to live in Durango and have a “scenic route” option next to the Animas River to take to work, and it’s thanks to Norman that I truly know how to appreciate it. Watching Norman’s pace through our commute—and life—has helped me truly understand all of the things I miss when I am leaping from one thing to the next. I’m still not perfect, but at least now I see that there are other approaches. Sometimes you need efficiency, but most of the time, you need to slow down.

So, Norman, my kibble-eating friend, thank you for coming into my life and teaching me just how fabulous each and every blade of grass can smell.


Sarah and Norman are Durango locals in every sense of the word. They ride, hike, ski, run, climb and share tents together. Norman is a rescue dog turned mountain mutt who doesn’t let his poultry allergy slow him down. He loves following Sarah on her adventures, especially on the bike (he’s a much faster runner than she is). Sarah raced bikes professionally and is now an avid high country mountain biker and adventurer. Whiles she loves exploring overseas nothing beats going on micro adventures with her best friend, Norman. Together they embody the Durango lifestyle.