Ernie and I moved to Boston more than five years ago now. We had been living in Richmond, Virginia, a friendly city where I had grown accustomed to strangers sharing a smile and striking up a conversation with me while I was out walking Ernie. So, I was admittedly somewhat apprehensive about moving to Boston, a city that tends to be made out to be as harsh as its winter weather.
But, I was pleasantly surprised to discover how much friendlier Boston is than it’s given credit for. There’s never a dull moment when I’m out around town with Ernie, as people routinely smile and come up and ask if they can pet him, which has led to conversations about everything from their own dogs to life in general. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, these casual conversations have also helped debunk some unfounded stereotypes about Dalmatians, so it’s an opportunity for education as well.
Having a dog has been a great way to get to know our neighbors, too, many of who also have dogs. One of the most fun aspects of getting out and about with Ernie is when people approach us every now and then to ask, “Is that Ernie?” because they follow him on Instagram and are so happy to finally meet him in person. You just never know who you’re going to meet and what experiences you’ll share.
This is very true at parks and dog parks, too. Especially now that spring has all but sprung, more and more Bostonians are bringing their pups out to play in the morning and after work, and certainly on weekends. We regularly take Ernie to our neighborhood dog parks as well as the Boston Public Garden and Boston Common, which has given us the chance to meet a ton of great people and pups. Visiting these spots is a great way to socialize your pups while also doing the same yourself.
Shopping at local businesses has added to this neighborhood feel as well. Just last week we walked into one of our favorite pet store –where Ernie gets his walks–and the employees exclaimed in unison, “It’s Ernie!” Moments like this make me smile and keep me coming back to stores like this one that welcome us with such open arms. As with many cities, there are plenty of pet-friendly businesses and restaurants where we shop with Ernie and sit out on the patio with him while we brunch it up with friends.
Another helpful means of building friendships and community has been engaging on Instagram and taking advantage of local pup meet-ups. Not only have we met friends and dogs from around the world through IG, but tapping into the platform has allowed us to meet some awesome people with some amazing pups right here in Boston. Thanks to Instagram and in-person meet-ups, we’ve attended fun events, scored play dates, and made some great friends.
As I look back over these last five years, it’s been a lot of fun meeting so many new people through Ernie. Being from a small town originally, I’ve enjoyed seeing so many familiar faces on a daily basis and striking up conversations so easily around town. It has really made this city so much smaller and friendlier to us.
Because it’s been so easy to meet new people with Ernie, we’ve even had friends take him out on long walks in hopes of hitting it off with a stranger, as you sometimes see on sitcoms and in movies. Sadly there haven’t been any love connections yet, but I’m not counting it out for them yet considering you never know what doors having a pup will open. That said, I’d highly recommend taking advantage of meeting new people while out and about with your pup. It can lead to lots of fun conversations, experiences and opportunities (and some equally bad jokes – “Where are the other 100?”). So, hit up your neighborhood parks and local businesses and get active on Instagram and nearby meet-ups. It’s worked for us and I have no doubt it will for you, too, especially if you’re newer to a city.