How a dog changed my connection to community
A few months ago, our family got a puppy. This furry, bundle of slobber and excitement joined our lives and changed it in many of the ways that we expected. I've watched my children love this dog like crazy, enjoy teaching him new things, and rescue shoes, coat hangers, clothes, toys and all manner of other things from his puppy teeth! But, there has been an unexpected change too - our connection to the community.
THE TIME BD (BEFORE DOG)
Prior to having a dog, we were a typical family. We enjoy bushwalking, and going on new adventures. We like to camp. We have picnics at the lake. We play board games and spend time with our extended family. We are friendly people, but also a little introverted and like to keep to ourselves!
A couple of days a week, we would walk to the bus stop where my two youngest children catch the bus to school, but on other days (like if I was heading into the office, or it looked like it could rain, or I had to duck to the shops) we would drive.
We know our neighbour on one side of us, but given the shape of our street and the position of our house on the block (we're on a big hill!) didn't really know many others in the street - despite having lived here for 18 years!
THE TIME WD (WITH DOG)
So along comes the dog and our family shifts. We take the dog to puppy training. We take the dog to the dog park. We take the dog for a bath. We take the dog to my parents place for weekly dinners - you get the picture. And everywhere we go, people want to pat him and talk to him. You see, he's a Golden Retriever, and they are typically very social dogs (not introverts!). If we are out for a walk and he sees someone walking towards us he makes eye contact and sits and waits for a pat.
Now, we walk to the bus stop every single day - because the dog needs a walk (and he really enjoys that the bus stop children give him sticks and sometimes even a dog treat!) Even if I need to head to the office, we still walk, then I walk him back home and leave for work.
We now have chatted with half a dozen neighbours in the street that we would never have otherwise come across. We've stopped for a play with a Border Collie and a French Bulldog who live in the street. We've made friends with three children who walk home from school and see us coming, running towards us yelling "It's Simba!" We've stood and chatted with the young mum who is at home with a baby.
AND DO I FEEL BETTER FOR IT?
Absolutely. I feel more connected. People wave as they pass in the street. We've been invited to a street party (let's face it, I'm still an introvert and may not go... but the thought is there). I've enjoyed random conversation and connection with people. Even my husband - who is more introverted than I am - struck up a conversation at the dog beach with three people when Simba went to play with their dogs. And I see how my children are loving it. They enjoy the chats, and the impromptu dog play dates on the way home from the bus stop.
Community is important, and however we come by it - we should embrace it.