A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.
By Nina Pajak
Recently, my husband and I adopted a one-year-old dog. He’s a Black Lab/Pit mix, and he’s pretty much the best boy in the world. Objectively speaking.
Check Out: A Guide To NYC Dog Ownership
This isn’t my first walk around the block (ha ha) when it comes to Manhattan dog ownership. But Luke was elderly by the time we came to care for him, and he was grouchy and aloof. Not to mention plagued with OCD, eczema, deafness, renal failure, recurring mini-strokes, and incontinence. So I operated outside the bounds of dog culture in New York. I was just a civilian with a Spaniel then. Now because my puppy, Gus, is sweet and playful, I am one of Them.
I have been absorbed into a community of people who are bonded by two commonalities: we all have dogs, and we all prefer those dogs to the group of humans into which we’ve been thrust. We meet every morning in the park and stand together for up to an hour. We talk a lot about the weather and the state of the ground (icy, muddy, dusty, oy!). We talk about the dogs, to the dogs and, shamefully often, on behalf of the dogs, imagining aloud what they’d want to say if they could talk while being mounted for the tenth time (“he’s like, ‘the least you could do is buy me a drink!’”). We know all the dogs by name, but rarely know one anothers’. We don’t even recognize each other around the neighborhood unless we’re with our pups, but we all recognize the dogs regardless of who is walking them. When my brother was dog-sitting recently, he was shocked to hear a woman yell “HELLO, GUS!” from all the way down the block. When my brother explained who he was, she just sort of blinked at him. She was saying hi to her friend Gus. No need for chit chat.
Also See: Pamper Your NYC Pet
Don’t get me wrong—these people all seem perfectly nice, intelligent, and good-natured. We let a few personal details slip out incidentally now and again. One time, I actually heard a guy ask after another guy’s family. It was major.
And yet, in spite of all this weirdness, in many ways we’re more intimate than I am with my longtime co-workers or acquaintances. We dress like barely-groomed bums, and sometimes I don’t even brush my teeth before I go (shhh). We freely behave like nerds who communicate via our pets. Frequently, we just stand in contented silence. This world sprang up out of nowhere—one day I didn’t have a dog, and the next I’m hanging out with people fifteen to forty years my senior and saying things like, “Buddy, apologize to that dog for attempting to impregnate his face. At least go for the right end! Ha ha ha!” I don’t know who I’ve become. I fear that owning this animal has caused me to lose my already tenuous grasp on social acceptability. It happened quite easily, really.
Too easily. Today, as I found myself standing dumbly among the other park-goers, it occurred to me that perhaps much of this awkwardness is radiating from me. Maybe I’m the only one who remains nameless. Maybe I’m the oddball who keeps making up dialogue for my dog. Perhaps it’s I who is incapable of conversation unless it’s about dog poop or puppy behavior.
In that case, I think I think I found my crowd.
Are you one of them? Let us know in the comments section…
Dear Readers: I’ll now be writing about city life every day from now on. 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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