How My Two Dogs Revealed A Hidden Layer of New York City For Me
I always thought the reason why New York City was so appealing to me was because I could be entirely anonymous, a privilege I was not afforded when I was growing up in Texas. Here, I could cry on the subway, have a heated argument on the phone during a walk, or run to the deli in flip flops and sweatpants, and absolutely no one would bat an eye. Feeling invisible, arguably, is one of the best parts about living in the city.
Last week, however, my mom — who is a fully vaccinated medical assistant— drove all the way up from Florida and dropped off our two dogs, Chloe and Clara, at my apartment while she moves to Georgia. I expected for my life to be radically different: I’d have to wake up earlier to feed and walk the pups, buy all sorts of gear, and get used to adorable pleas for a bite of my dinner. But I didn’t think that my everyday interactions with strangers would change. Now, every time I go outside, people smile at me and ask me questions, all because I have two very adorable dogs by my side.
It’s almost as if I have unlocked a new level on a video game, except that instead of me having to duke it out in a boss fight, I now have pleasant conversations with neighbors I’ve never seen before. Every morning, I walk Chloe and Clara to Prospect Park with my boyfriend, and we see the same cast of characters. I’ve gotten to know the construction workers who are restoring a brownstone a block away from me, the owner of a very sweet mutt named Oggie, and some toddlers who attend pod school in the park (sometimes, when it’s cold, the pups wear shark hoodies, so of course these kids are asking if they could play with the Baby Sharks).
My boyfriend and I are adjusting to the attention; it’s bizarre talking to people on the street after months of only really interacting with each other, the baristas next door, and our virtual classmates in grad school. These days, I would never openly talk to someone on the street unless there was a clear purpose why, so having randos come up to me and ask me if my dogs are yorkipoos (they’re not) is simultaneously thrilling and nerve-wracking. I imagine that they, too, are itching for some human interaction, and what better excuse than two pups that have no thoughts behind their eyes?
I get it. Since last December, I have been struggling with renewed severe depression and anxiety. As a full-time graduate student and freelancer, I am constantly glued to my screen, entrapped by hours of Zoom School and emails. My depression has gotten to the point where I forget to eat, clean, and move in part because I feel guilty for doing anything else when I should be working. My school work has tanked, and it’s a struggle to get words down on the page. I work all day, nonstop, and I often refuse to interact with anyone or anything else. I know I am not the only one wishing for something to change.
These two have brought not only me joy, but they put a smile on people’s faces on the street. Not that I can see the smiles, since everyone is masked, but I can hear them. I hear the coos and laughs. I see the eye crinkles. I notice when people walk faster just to see if they can pet Chloe and Clara. With every new interaction on the street, I feel like I am returning to myself. The pups have reminded me what it’s like to be a part of a community, to be active, and to genuinely get to know people. They’ve retaught me what it is to be human.