I live in a bustling neighbourhood full of dog walkers, young parents pushing strollers and couples who look like they’ve shared a few decades together strolling silently beside each other. Seeing all that walking makes me want to take to the lively sidewalks in tune with my neighbours but it’s just me, no dog, no kid, no partner to walk with.
I have strolled solo before, but going without a companion feels out of place in quintessential suburbia. I’ve noticed that people avoid my smile or my friendly “hello” when I’m alone. There’s no dog to pet or baby to goo at. Who cares though right? I usually run instead. This morning was different, I had a dog to walk with.
My friends left Tallie, their furry black part-border-collie-part-some-other-canine-mix, with me while they road trip to Nashville. I have Tallie for nine days. The first night was rough. She kept whining by my bedside in apparent stress that her parents had abandoned her. But last night she gave into her current reality and curled up at the bottom of the bed until sunrise.
In the morning, I felt partially refreshed, minus the lingering effect from last night’s mojito indulgence. Tallie senses I’m awake and starts pacing around the room. She’s all smiles and breathes heavily while she waits for me at the top of the stairs while I brush my teeth. When I make a move towards the stairs she charges down both flights to the front door of my house.
Her enthusiasm is contagious and I decide we’ll do an extra long walk this morning. It’s 8am and at first we seem to be the only ones up this early on a Sunday. It’s peaceful. The dew hangs heavy off the tips of the grass saturating Tallie’s furry underside. She gets her sniff on and pulls the leash for me to move at her pace. She calms down once she finds the perfect spot to poop, conveniently right by the garbage can on the edge of the park. Good girl!
The street is so quiet I can hear an airplane cut through the atmosphere and the rumble of a car in the distance. The scent of laundry drifts from one home, the smell of sausages and pancakes escapes from another. I pass a woman who compliments me on my pyjamas. They’re my summer weekend pants with bright oranges and blues in a mosaic design. I bought them in India last summer for about $5-dollars.
I say good morning to a man who is pulling a hose out of his garage to wash some object I can’t identify on his driveway. I walk down a street that I’ve only run down maybe once before. Every lawn is perfectly manicured tantalizing Tallie who wants to pee on the soft grassy carpet. A corner lot has a small metal sign shaped like a squatting dog with a “No!” carved into the centre of its body.
I catch a glance of the woman on her porch, book in hand, as we pass the sign on her lot. I pull the leash tighter and Tallie returns to the sidewalk. Walking with my adopted dog I feel that for once I fit into this cookie-cutter suburban universe. For a moment, I was able to forget about being the only person on the street that decided to grow veggies on her front lawn (my only piece of land) and breaking by-laws I didn’t know existed.
The fleeting sense of conformity disappeared after I thought about my current situation: searching for a job that extends far beyond this community and a pursuit for a life that doesn’t fit the standards of by-law abiding suburbia.
Then I see him. The man with the cat. I’ve seen him before when I was out running but I thought maybe my tired eyes were playing tricks on me. The man has his cat on a leash and he’s walking with it, which is actually more like standing while the cat stares off at distant prey. Amused, I say to the man, “I’ve never seen a cat on a leash before.”
He responds, “I’m surprised. We’ve been doing it for six years.” Then he explains how cats need to be outdoors — it’s good for them — even if he does have to keep it on a leash, at least it can prowl around the neighbourhood like the wild animals they once were.
He doesn’t seem bothered by how weird it looks, but then again if everyone took their cats out for a morning walk it wouldn’t be weird at all. I think I’ll take a page from this man’s book and stop caring what people may think when I decide to take myself out for a walk.