Million Paws Walk – Sydney Olympic Park

They call it the ‘friendliest event of the year’ and this is one case where the spin meets the substance.

Let me explain.

I walk our dog, Blossom, a 2 ½-year-old Golden Retriever, most days. She’s a good girl now, well past her rambunctious puppy stage, and unless she spots a cat sunning itself, is happy to trot along at a fair pace beside my powerchair. She rarely pulls, sits for road crossings, and joyously says hello to any dog we pass on the footpath (even the small yappy ones who look more like lunch than dogs). People often mistake her for an assistance dog, and she plays along.

The bane of any trip is when she stops to answer the call of nature. Remarkably, she manages to do this nearly every trip, no matter of the time of day or night, or when she has previously eaten. She seems to bottle it up all day. I’m a responsible dog owner, so I always carry bags and a pooper scooper, as I can’t reach the ground from my chair. But it’s a bit of a business, requiring dexterity, especially in a wind. And all the while I’m trying to coordinate bag and scooper, Bloss stands impatiently, whimpering as if she has no idea what has possessed me to stop and pick up this rubbish from the medium strip.

It’s funny, but no-one ever stops to offer to help with this task, even other dog walkers passing by. That’s fine; I don’t ask for help, but it is surprising. In the rest of my life, people offer help all the time. If I stop to adjust my feet on the footplate, someone appears and asks if I’m ok. Ditto if I get a text message and stop to answer it.

Which brings me back to the Million Paws Walk.

This year, as Bloss and I were travelling just in front of ANZ Stadium, en route to the starting point, she stopped and squatted. As I reached for my bags, a guy came out of nowhere and said ‘no problem mate, I’ve got it’. I thanked him profusely and we continued our journey. The friendliest event of the year had lived up to its slogan.

The Walk is held at Sydney Olympic Park, so as well as being dog heaven, it’s a wheelie paradise. Everything is accessible, there are accessible toilets everywhere, there are even places to stop and recharge. The Walk takes you from The Overflow, out through the Wetlands, and back past the Brickpit. It’s a pretty 4km walk, on a stable dirt surface, all with a gentle gradient, and easy in a chair or on a scooter.

Back at The Overflow, there are displays and dog washing, and lots for the kids to do. All up, it’s a great day out for the whole family, regardless of whether they have 2 or 4 legs, or wheels.

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