Let’s recap: I’m embroiled in a cold war with my family’s new dog Charlie after he decided to pee on my bedroom rug. He doesn’t enter my room, he doesn’t sit on my lap, I don’t feed him, and I certainly don’t take him on walks.
To my advantage, my parents stressed that Grace take him on most of his walks because he is her dog, and they were trying to teach her responsibility or something. Fine with me.
Of course, as expected, that breaks down after a while. Grace isn’t on board with the level of commitment that taking care of a puppy requires and my parents soften on the whole “your dog your responsibility” thing. Pretty soon, they’re asking ME to take him out.
Alright, fine, we’ll go around the block. That wasn’t too bad and since its a nice evening, we’ll go a little farther. On second thought, maybe we’ll go a mile or two at a good pace and I’ll do this instead of my regular jog. He might be pulling at the leash to chase a squirrel and I might have to carry his poop around, but otherwise, and to my chagrin, I’m enjoying myself.
A few days later I’m walking Charlie and two little boys, probably between the ages of two and four run up to me, saying “Baby! Baby!” and begin hugging Charlie, who is beyond thrilled to receive the stranger love that he so desperately wishes he would get from everyone he meets. I’m holding back laugher and ask the boys, “Who’s Baby?”
“This is Baby!” They exclaim, gesturing at Charlie, who has already seated himself in their laps.
“No this is Charlie,” I explain as an older woman hurries over to us. She explains through a laugh that there is another King Charles Spaniel that lives on that block whose name, you guessed it, is Baby. Even though the confusion was sorted out, whenever I walk past those boys’ house and they’re playing in the front yard, they come over and say hi to “Baby”.
This charming and unexpected human interaction models how all of the other people I met while walking Charlie went. I meet other people walking their dogs and Charlie and I both get to meet someone new. I see people I already know and strike up a new conversation because of Charlie. He’s my universal icebreaker, and it feels like my neighborhood of 18 years has suddenly expanded because of him.
Although unfortunate, people on the street aren’t going to start up a conversation with you out of the blue. But with a dog, you have a reason to interact, a reason to say something nice, a reason to get to know someone.
Walking Charlie became therapeutic for me. Am I stressed out? I’ll take Charlie on a walk and listen to my favorite music and decompress. Do I need to get some exercise? I’ll take Charlie on a long walk. Do I want to spend some time with my sister? Her and I will take Charlie on a walk together after school.
Soon I was volunteering to be the one to take Charlie out. Who knew!