A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.
By Nina Pajak
The other day, I walked home from the dog run in the evening with one of the regulars whose dog gets along well with Gus. We live very close by and often find ourselves walking home together, sometimes with others, sometimes not. When we parted ways, I said, “Have a good night! See you in the morning!” She wished me the same and we crossed to our respective blocks. All extremely common occurrences, nothing remarkable about that scene at all. And that’s when I realized that I spend roughly 90% of my free time at the dog run.
I go every morning and see the same people. Not only are we on a first-name basis now, but we’ve got one another’s email addresses too. We remember details about the others’ “real” lives, like relationship status and job function and vacation plans. The dogs greet everyone familiarly and excitedly each morning. We talk about the dogs and exchange dog-related advice, like good groomers and dog-sitters and walkers and daycares, but I’ve also overheard people offering up real estate agents and salons, and we discuss current events and children and work and weekend happenings and what it’s like to live in other cities. Then I do it all over again when I get home from work, and at least half of the faces are the same! Honestly, there are some weeks I don’t even see my husband for as much time as I see my dog run people.
Now, I can’t figure out whether this is positive or negative. On the one hand, I committed to having a dog, and a young, energetic dog at that. So I am happy to devote a great deal of my time to making sure he gets the exercise and playtime that he needs. Plus, it gets me up early and outside more than I would normally be, and it has exposed me to a whole new group of people which feels more and more like a community than just a group of strangers who interact because they have no choice. There’s a choice. Plenty of folks choose to sit by themselves and studiously ignore the chatters who chat chat chat and ask busybody questions if anyone new gets too close (that’s me, obviously). But on the flip side, there seems to be a definite line drawn in the sand (or in this case, filthy, dusty gravel which absorbs dog pee extremely well). We all have our own lives, and we are pretty much strictly “dog run friends.” Wait, colleagues? Contemporaries? Acquaintances? I’m going to make a leap and say friends. Eek!
Anyway, my point is that yes, in theory, I have a personal life. But in practice, more and more of it is being spent at the dog run. And that has everything to do with Gus, but that’s neither here nor there. And it’s all probably exactly the way it ought to be, really. But it is a little odd to be friends with people when you stop short of doing anything friends do together. I recently invited one person over for an indoor doggie playdate due to the heat, and I had to read and re-read the email before I sent it, as though I was awkwardly asking someone on a date or something. The risk felt equivalent. Honestly, with each passing month I just feel myself falling deeper and deeper down this rabbit hole. Do I have to do this all over again when I have a kid? I suspect the answer is “yes.”
By the way, if anyone from the dog run is reading this, yeah I said “friends.” Don’t make it all weird now or anything.
Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.
Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.
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