I have a friend Noel who has a large German Shepherd named Bodie. She has a small stature like mine and is closer to my mother’s age than my own. You can spot her from a mile away every morning because she’s already waving at you. Noel goes out not only to walk her dog, but to mingle with every neighbor along the way.
We first started interacting a year ago when we would take turns pulling off to the side to distract our reactive dogs from seeing the other. She’s super social though, so we became fast friends when one day she asked if we could stop when we pass so as to teach her dog to be chill around other dogs. Now it’s our tradition: Bruce and I always stop and she regularly updates me on her golf game, we share neighborhood news and she even offers me some of her best recipes. In a way they’re just small fleeting interactions, but in other ways, they make me feel like for once in my adult life, I belong to a real neighborhood apart from the one I spent my childhood in.
It happened slowly, but now chatting with neighbors is a part of my morning routine with Bruce.
After Noel, there was Jeff who wears a consistent uniform and always keeps his head down and his dog in check as he passes by. I’d wave hello to him in passing and he would nod in acknowledgement, but he never stopped to talk or say more. I didn’t understand his standoffish attitude - everyone else had been so friendly. Come to find out one day from Noel that Jeff’s uber focused disposition is all in an effort to keep his dog under control. I suddenly understood him on a whole new level - it was nothing personal, we were just two people trying to make the best morning we could for our dogs!
The other day when we passed Jeff, he finally said something. “Oh good I thought we got out late this morning.” That’s when I knew Bruce and I were a staple of their morning routine as well!
Then there’s Kathy. She’s the sweetest woman who despite not having a dog, heads out every morning at 6:30 with a pocketful of treats to hand out to the dog she passes. The morning is her social hour and all she wants is to pet all the dogs! Bless her.
Kathy and I exchanged numbers early on after she gave Bruce a treat one morning. She calls me occasionally when we haven’t run into each other after a while and she’s not shy in asking me if there is something neighborly I can help her with. It’s strangely one of the most feel-good calls I can get. It’s easy to feel like we’re floating through the world, but when Kathy calls me, it makes me realize I’m a reliable member of my community. And that’s pretty cool for someone in her mid-20s when dependable isn’t the first word that comes to mind.
I could keep listing the things that led to the evolution of creating a life, home and community for myself, but at the true center of it is my dog Bruce. Adopting my him is the seminal moment that I stopped just living in a neighborhood, but actually belonging to it.