One of the undercover agents working for the Open City may live right in our own homes! Dogs, more than any other pet, bring people outside and often together. Bolton Hill is a perfect example of a space with untapped potential for interaction. Private houses and apartment buildings allow for people to stay cooped up inside. But dogs need to be walked, and this brings people out of their yards, gates, and fences, down from the top floors of apartment buildings, and outside in all kinds of weather.
The beauty, I think, of this entry to the arsenal, is that it is so common and also so positive! Man's best friend often has many of the qualities that our human neighbors lack: energy, curiosity, and a tendency to be friendly and outgoing. Although dogs' personalities vary, some will run right up to a stranger to investigate, or just to get a pat on the head and a good scratch behind the ears. The owner will often follow at some distance, or attached to their gregarious pet by its leash, forcing the owner into some kind of interaction with their dog's new friend, a 'hello' and a smile at the very least.
I've often found myself talking to a dog before even making eye contact with the owner. There's one older man in the neighborhood who I've seen following a few paces behind his tiny unleashed dachshund who trots along, obediently keeping within distance. Most times, I'll bend down to pet the dog, then look up to greet the old man. Dogs are especially interested in other dogs- whether as a friend or possible opponent. And being cloistered indoors most of the time, out of the company of their own species, who can blame them? To most people who live in an urban or suburban environment, the sight of a dog dragging its owner towards another animal is amusingly familiar. Who doesn't like making small-talk with your neighbor while your dog tangles its leash around your legs, the both of you clutching warm grocery bags. Open city! Common' feel the love!
There is always the issue of cleanliness, since the parks and sidewalks we frequent are all fair game as 'bathroom' to our canine friends. But for the most part, people around here seem to abide by the 'clean up after your dog' laws. The park at the corner of Bolton and Wilson Street even has a re-used plastic bag dispenser, which I assume is for that purpose.
Recently, though, I was looking out my living room window onto the park on Park Ave, and I witnessed a man pick up after his dog with his bare hands(!) and toss it under a parked car, after checking to make sure no one was watching. Hopefully the other pet-owning residents of Bolton Hill have a little more class. And cat-owners? Well, you guys are just anti-social.