When socializing goes to the dogs

June 29, 1998|By Isaac Rehert

IT'S COMMON knowledge that a sure-fire way to get acquainted with neighbors is by walking a dog. I didn't realize until recently how many of the people in my neighborhood, although they knew nothing else about me, identified me as "the man who is always walking by with his dog."

That came home to me this morning when walking Pedro, my new pup, a couple of blocks from home. A woman sitting on her doorstep shouted, as I was passing by, "Oh, you've got a new puppy. Did you lose your old dog?" I told her that yes, I did, and that I was now in the process of training Pedro to the leash, and that he didn't like it a bit.

A toe chewer

Of course she proceeded to tell me how her dog -- I recall that its name was Lacey -- also fought the leash for many months, and that Lacey, even though she was now a couple of years old, still liked to chew her mistress' toes if she happened to be barefoot -- which was indeed the condition of the woman's feet while we were engaged in this curbside conversation and which Pedro was himself tugging at his leash to do.

In a few minutes Lacey was brought out to meet me and Pedro. And the woman, who told me her name was Sue, went indoors and came out carrying a rawhide chew object for Pedro like one she said Lacey adored. After reassuring Lacey, she petted Pedro a little and told him how pretty he was and then he and I, with bTC the piece of rawhide clutched in the hand in which I also carried my yellow plastic clean-up bag, resumed our morning walk.

Speaking of the yellow plastic cleanup bag reminds me of the interaction a few weeks ago with a neighbor whose acquaintance I didn't make but who certainly seemed to know who I was. Pedro was still tiny, and I wasn't yet used to carrying the yellow bag. Somewhere in the neighborhood, on somebody's grass patch, he relieved himself.

As I've said, I hadn't yet gotten used to carrying a yellow bag, and what Pedro deposited there was tiny so I looked at it and said to myself, "Well, it's small, we'll let it go this time, but next time we'd better be better prepared."

Whoever that neighbor was -- and I don't recall which grass patch it was -- wasn't about to let it go this time. Or, I gathered, ever. Though we weren't personally acquainted, the neighbor certainly seemed to know who I was and which car among the many lined up along the curb was mine.

That afternoon, when I came out of my house all dressed in my going-to-town clothes and ready to drive off, I found dog excrement smeared on my windshield and all over the door handle on the driver's side.

But that's just a single strikeout against a number of fine base hits. One morning we encountered Pedro's brother -- one of five siblings who doesn't look a bit like him -- smaller and much lighter in coloring. And his brother's lady-of-the-house, whom I had never traded a word with before and with whom I now swapped experiences about our various veterinarians and their differing recommendations about feeding puppies.

From Rags to riches

Last week it was Joe and his wife, Mary, who expressed their delight at my having a new dog since they had frequently chatted with Rags, my previous dog, and, after I had lost him, once tried to fix me up with a successor -- although that hadn't worked out.

In my own block, people I've hardly ever spoken to (you know how it is, the anonymity, the yearning for privacy of people living in the city), people sitting on their front stoops on warm, clear nights ask me as I walk by, "And how's the little fellow coming?"

One woman whom I'd never spoken to before said, as I was passing, "Wait a minute, I've got some equipment maybe you can use. My dogs are too big for them," and she ran into her house and came out with a green knitted leash and two green harnesses to match.

A widow down the street who had recently remarried came out of her house with a windup alarm clock, which she gave me along with the advice, "Put this in with him at night. The ticking will remind him of his mother's heartbeat."

The man across the street asks me each time he sees us together if I need a muzzle for Pedro -- joking, of course, since Pedro is all of about 7 or 8 pounds. A woman in the apartment complex nearby wants to know where I was able to find such a small dog; she wants one for her little boy.

And so it goes.

Beats putting an ISO ad in the paper to find people to talk to.

Isaac Rehert is a retired feature writer for The Sun.

Pub Date: 6/29/98

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