June 21st is Bring Your Dog to Work Day, so it seems an appropriate opportunity to introduce an unpaid yet never under-appreciated member of my team: Mac-A-Roni, creative director. I adopted Mac in 2013 while still completing my doctoral thesis in Baltimore, MD. He came from a high-kill shelter in Tennessee and was a 29th birthday present to myself. I immediately started dragging him to campus on sunny days to hang out with colleagues on the grass in front of Gilman Hall. Students requested his guest appearances in my lectures — especially during the stressful mid-term exam season. He’s been a working dog since I got him.

Mac is not just a positive presence in the workspace. Our thrice daily (or more) walks around the neighbourhood, rain or shine, are when I tackle the most challenging writing problems: How will I transition to that next sentence? Is this structure undermining my larger argument? If I can’t resolve an issue after fifteen minutes of staring at the screen, I know I have a reliable director for a “creative exercise” that will include stopping at fire hydrants, noticing every squirrel and appreciating the changing of the seasons.

Being a dog owner necessarily integrates regular walks into my daily schedule, and mild physical exertion has been a steadfast of creative geniuses for millenia! Aristotle’s “school” in Athens and those who study it are called “Peripatetic” because The Philosopher so famously paced while talking. Immanuel Kant‘s 5pm walk contributed to nickname — the Königsberg clock. Charles Darwin and Charles Dickens were famous walkers too! Indeed, walking upright is one of the characteristics that differentiates us as a species. Although our hands are freed to use tools and gesticulate, our skeletons have adjusted to make child-bearing more dangerous. Frédéric Gros’ 2008 book Marcher, une philosophie (Verso’s 2015 English translation is entitled A Philosophy of Walking) offers a beautiful reflection on this simplest of activities well worth the read.

Relevant Research

2006 study explores how dogs improve autonomic nervous activity

2014 Stanford study investigates how walking boosts creativity