Thanks to Brannen’s post on Undefine Me!, I now proudly claim the label of Dog Lover (more on sustainability and labels in another post).
The day that I adopted Gracie, I told her to be patient. I told her that when I retire we will hang out on the couch and read, go out for long walks, head up to the dog run, and take naps together.
It hasn’t exactly turned out that way. I’m a little too anxious to just relax and hang out at home. I’m restless. When I’m not on the computer, or in the kitchen cooking, I like to keep moving. It is not easy to take her with me when I run errands. Gracie’s behavior in public spaces is not impeccable. There are only so many places you can take a dog in New York (food trucks, banks, and bookshops are the best). When I want to fulfill my promise to her I fill my thermos mug with coffee and we walk.
I grew up in Manhattan and I’ve always walked wherever I was going. It is not unusual for me to walk eight miles in a day. It is good exercise and it clears my head. I’m a brisk, heads down walker. It is my thinking time, unless I have Gracie with me. When I’m with Gracie I am on dog time. She wants to stop, sniff, and socialize.
Gracie and I go “out” at least three times a day. There are owners who take their dog down to the corner curb, count to ten, and then go back inside. Not me. If I start a sentence with “Do you want to go…” Gracie goes and sits by the door waiting for me to put on her leash. Even if I am talking to Donna, not her. Gracie is an optimist. It is a good quality.
Walking with Gracie is not the same as walking by myself. I have to stay present. If I let my mind drift she darts for a chicken bone or gobbles some mystery meat off the pavement. I have to pay attention when another dog comes towards us. I wish she was predictably friendly, but she has a complicated dance card and I don’t always guess right. I’m still learning to read her.
Dogs generally read me better than people do. They don’t care about gender identity or sexual orientation or where you bought your jeans. Dogs pick up my vibe. They know I am friendly and an easy mark.
When I am out walking with Gracie I become the me that I always hid. The me that I only felt when I was in my room. The part that didn’t get expressed with other people. The part of me that can play. When I am with Gracie I let my boy out, and he is a dog lover.
People are friendlier when I am out with Gracie. Perhaps it is because I am more animated. Or look more natural than when I am walking by myself. More approachable. Maybe it is because Gracie is cute. Or maybe it is because we both look happy and happiness is contagious.
Note: A few days ago I received an email from the New York Public Library with a survey to find out who you would be if you were a classic children’s book character. Unfortunately, I turned out to be Eeyore instead of Christopher Robin. If you want to take the survey you can find it here.