Wednesday, May 2, 2012


WE ARE UP HERE AGAIN, ON THE MEAN STREETS OF CHICAGO, AND IF THERE'S ONE THING I'VE LEARNED IN OUR RECENT FORAYS INTO THE CITY IT'S NEVER BE CAUGHT IN CHICAGO WITHOUT A DOG. If you have a dog, you're pretty safe. Why, just today Ursula rescued me. We were walking home after our early morning park visit. I was minding my own business, when from across the street I see a strange woman approaching from the other side. She looked straight at me and said, “Good morning!” And she wasn't just saying, “good morning,” either. She said it like she really meant it. She was smiling and all. I said it right back to her and then she went on. “It's a beautiful day, isn't it?” I said yes, it was, and then she said, “I first came out, and I was, like, 'it's freezing,' but it is REALLY NICE.” By now she has crossed the street and we stand on the corner, chatting together about the weather and enjoying the cool breeze in the sun. We exchanged blessings (“You enjoy your beautiful day, now!”) and parted. I shudder to think what might have happened if I hadn't had Ursa with me. Why we could have had an UNPLEASANT encounter, or, at the very least, passed each other with downcast eyes. Or perhaps I would try to greet her, but she would simply ignore my greeting and walk on by.

Now this woman didn't have a dog, herself, but I've noticed an interesting phenomenon in the city. Add a dog to the mix and a chance meeting automatically becomes pleasant. Maybe dogs are messing with our minds, sending out a cushion of pacifying vibes around us that sooth our every encounter. My research indicates that if even one party has a dog, the chances of a pleasant interchange go up dramatically. For example, after our morning walk I set out alone to do my day's work at the grocery store coffee shop where they have free wifi, and tried my best to smile and make eye contact with everyone I saw, but every single person passed with eyes averted. It was still the same beautiful morning, but I was getting dramatically different results. Actually saying “Good morning” to one man was enough to make him spill his coffee and quicken his pace.

 Let's review: 2 people meeting randomly on the street + 1 dog = a greater exchange of pleasantries. 2 people meeting randomly on the street + 0 dogs = very low exchange of pleasantries.

Now, if both people have dogs, an entire conversation is required. That conversation is to be focused on the dogs and can include anything from names and ages to genealogy and comparing notes on behaviors like chewing (negative behavior) or playing fetch (positive behavior). This is especially true in the middle of the day, when people are not just walking their dogs before or after work, but seem to have time to visit. Of course, if the interaction takes place in the dog park, the number of exchanges rises exponentially with each additional dog.

In the dog park, people gather in the center or on the benches, sipping coffee and chatting while their corresponding dogs cavort and play. In the afternoon, Ursula and I walk several blocks to get to the fenced-in tract where dogs can go off leash. I bring the little frisbee I crocheted for her, but she is overwhelmed with the buzz of being so close to 10 or 12 dogs, and when I pull it out of my pocket I can't interest her in a game of fetch. A little brown pug, however, is very interested, and so I throw it for him—a rookie mistake. He promptly catches it in the air and runs away with it, all manner of doggies in hot pursuit. He doesn't want to let it go, but the people leave their conversation and run after him to retrieve it for me.

 It takes 4 adult humans to bring down one little dog, and 2 of them to pry it from his teeth. After the ruckus, of course, comes conversations and introductions, and one thing leads to another and suddenly I am no longer just a wallflower at the dog park, but caught up in a community of dog people. We sip our coffee, exchange pleasantries, and enjoy this fine day.
Converse in Beauty; Converge in Peace;
Blessed Be.


  1. what a fun, imaginative, and cheerful piece of writing! Thanks for sharing your dog to human social connection story! All I have is a cat and she won't go outside. I do have a camera and sometimes that works the same way as a dog might.

  2. Aww thanks, Karen. I love the image of two shutterbugs meeting on the path in the prairie and striking up a conversation. :)