My wife and I got a year-old shelter dog about two months ago and it's become my personal trainer, community builder and dustmop.
Part border terrier, part poodle, all energy, the frisky pooch pulls me outside every afternoon -- my wife does mornings -- to jog, sprint and walk briskly along a gaggle of streets in Gregory Gardens.
During these excursions, which include stops to smell the roses, clover, bushes, lawns, hydrants and other doggie post offices, I've gotten to know more neighbors (and their pups) than in the rest of the 17 or so years I've lived in Pleasant Hill.
Naturally, I remember the dogs' names -- Baily, Brody, Chiquita, Brie, Scout, Stymie, Mason, Kuo -- but am awful at remembering the humans'.
Except for Scott, who's lived across the street and around the corner longer than I've been here, yet we never even saw each other -- it's a fairly quiet area and people pretty much keep to themselves -- until he walked by with Brody one evening as my wife and I were sitting on the porch swing and drinking champagne (a favorite Gregory Gardens pastime) with Maggie Mae, our pup, alongside on a leash.
Naturally, we all introduced ourselves, human to human, dog to dog, in that way dog owners do.
Apparently, Scott and I, and Maggie Mae and Brody, keep similar schedules and so we chat from time to time, as I've started doing with other dog-loving neighbors on our walks. Feels good in that connecting-with-others kind of way.
Even people driving by smile. At least the majority do. As Maggie and I approached a corner one week, a woman, perhaps having a bad day though I doubt it, stopped her SUV, opened her side window, and, in no uncertain terms, told me she doesn't want dogs on her lawn.
And then she drove off in a huff.
Or maybe it was a Lexus.
I didn't even try to explain that most dogs are nature lovers and just enjoy the sniff. And for pups with more urgent errands, most of us carry those blue plastic bags designed for emergency pickups. (There should be an always-pick-up-after law, but that's for another blog entry.)
Finally, as for the "dustmop" function, Maggie's taken to lying under our big, low-to-the-floor coffee table and, like everybody but the cat, the dust bunnies love her.