While the casual dog walker has yet to master the art of poop-bagging, bark management, and leash commitment, I’ve noticed a more unsettling habit amongst dog owners of late. They don’t speak.
I live in an extremely dog-friendly apartment community with landscaped walking paths, bowls of treats lining the sidewalk, and even an adorable dog park. This Doggy Disneyland is packed day and night with young men walking their girlfriend’s pink-sweatered Chihuahuas, dads taking out the kids’ new nervous puppy, and women wrangling their excited Puggles. You can’t step outside without crossing leashes with a neighbor. So after walking my own teacup Yorkie, Maya, approximately two hundred and eleven times since my move-in date last summer, just by the numbers alone, we should have made hundreds of lifelong doggy friends and neighbors. Unfortunately, this is where the owners need some training from their pooches.
Our dogs are our best social networkers and we just aren’t taking their hints. They lead the charge the moment we let them outside and pull us in the direction of the nearest living creature. After chatting up a few rogue rabbits they eventually take us to another dog, and by default, another human. They pause for a good seventeen seconds, pretending to sniff each other’s backsides in order to give us humans a moment to interact. We smile at the budding doggy friendship, we watch, we wait, and if the moment feels too awkward one of us may utter a polite “aren’t you cute?!” to the other’s pet. And once one of the booty-sniffers gets bored and trails off, another human connection passes us by.
Maya and I were on our nightly walk yesterday and had no less than seven neighbor doggies attempt to make friends. I trialed a simple hello on each of their owners, which was met with mixed reactions: three of them responded with utter silence, two said to Maya, “wow you’re so tiny!” and two smiled at me and then started telling their dogs to stop being so aggressive and walked away. So seven sunny human-to-human hellos plus seven adorably (and apparently distracting) dogs equals twenty minutes of awkward silence reminiscent of being stuck in an elevator.
Perhaps it’s only a subtle hint that I should be spending this special time relaxing in peace with my sweet little Maya, but if your dog and my dog are going to smell each other’s butts every night, the least we can do is exchange hellos.