One recent evening, I found myself staring up at the moon, an enormous glowing orb in the sky, entranced, before a firm tug on my wrist pulled me back to my two dogs, a pair of Tibetan Terriers who were looking up at me expectantly. Realizing Dolly had successfully done her business, I whooped softly in praise.
The whoop was downright subtle, really, given that I’ve been known to cheer loudly and jump up and down to celebrate such jobs well done. I’ve learned they need encouragement to go outside instead of inside the confines of my Heights apartment. Still, a couple strolling on the other side of the street looked up, giving all three of us a once-over as I used the cool, white lunar light to bag things up. They seemed to think I was crazy—that I was, in fact, howling at the moon. In an instant, I knew that they weren’t familiar with the joys of having dogs.
The three of us spend a portion of every day strolling the city. As we parade along oak-lined streets, Dolly, a dark-eyed, black-furred huntress with a delicate face, studies everyone she meets—dog and human alike—and then decides whether they are worthy of notice. Winston, a fluffy black-and-tan guy with soft brown eyes and the countenance of a mustachioed Romanov prince, alternates between bopping along without a care in the world and desperately searching for the relative privacy of a bush. I walk, and I wait for the mood to strike them. It’s really the least I can do.
Cities can be lonely places, but it’s hard to feel truly alone when you’re striding through Houston with a pair like these. (Everyone thinks their pets are the best, me included.) When we aren’t walking, we hang out at home, sitting together while I read or watch TV and they scratch, wrestle, and consider barking at anyone who dares to pass by our window.
Sure, it can be exhausting standing around in the heat or the cold or the rain or the wind, just waiting for them to make their decisions—some people have been able to train their pets to go on command, but mine feel this would interfere with the artistry of the task. More often, though, it’s strangely wonderful to walk along and look at the city through the eyes of a dog.
You have to be on alert—once your dog has rolled in the desiccated, pungent remains of roadkill, you learn to keep an eye out for disgusting things they might be drawn to—but you also just see more of what’s around you, like red-breasted robins your dogs would like to eat, or art cars that might freak them out.
And then there’s the point of the whole exercise: We turn a corner and suddenly, for reasons unknown to me, hit upon the perfect spot. After Dolly and Winston have done their thing, we march back home triumphant as Roman generals, chucking the plastic baggies into garbage cans as we head inside to wait for the next walk. It will be here before we know it.