During my school years, my friends were people with whom I had classes or shared the same extracurriculars. As a single twenty something my new friends came from my work and roommates. And then as a young mother, it was largely through my boys’ activities that I met other parents. Now it’s Pettigrew who serves as the key to many of my neighborhood friends and even the name by which some people know me.
Because Pettigrew is reactive, i.e., doesn’t always play well with others, his needs have dictated with whom I am acquainted. He’s fine with small dogs and puppies, no matter what their size. He tolerates their barking, yapping, and jumping for a few minutes. He knows his limits and saunters away when he’s had enough.
Dogs his size and larger are a different story. If they are submissive or so extroverted they are friendly with all, we are good to go.
If not, well, we cross the street, shorten the leash, and quicken our stride. I rarely see the provocation, but Pettigrew can go from calm to clashing in the blink of an eye.
There are casual acquaintances. A few blocks down is a dog with an incurable tumor. As the dogs sniff and frisk we discuss the laxatives he must take, but his unstoppable joie de vie reconciles his family to the occasional cleanup they cause. I don’t know the man’s name, only the dog’s.
Then there are the dogs whose yard we used to skirt, Pettigrew barely under control as the dogs behind the fence barked and lunged. That is, until I saw my husband bring Pettigrew over to greet them. Now Pettigrew runs up and down on the outside of the fence and is even sometimes invited in to play as I chat with the woman and man who live there. Their autistic son is having success at a new job.
Pettigrew whimpers whenever we pass his dog trainer’s house. He’s always on the lookout for that lovely woman who fed him delicious treats and sometimes is invited back to romp with her dog.
There are even a few dogless people, like the man who performs yard work and odd jobs. He pops up working on different homes throughout the neighborhood and whenever our paths cross, Pettigrew makes a beeline. He angles his body just so to be sure the right spots are petted.
Pettigrew also has doggie play dates and I stay to socialize and supervise, just as I did when my kids were toddlers. Together, we watched a house enlarged to make room for a new baby. Now Pettigrew greets the baby when he’s out for a walk in his stroller.
We even briefly tried a babysitting co-op, but had to abort after Pettigrew was homesick and whimpered until the Dad came downstairs to sleep on the living room sofa. A night of waking to dog breath meant Pettigrew was not invited back. Did I mention he also peed on their furniture? We still occasionally host sleepovers at our house, but Pettigrew isn’t ready for a night away from home.
So my days are full of people who stop us on our walks and give Pettigrew pats while exchanging a few words with me. Many of them are nameless, although I know their dogs’ names, where they live, and a few snippets about their lives. It’s my community.