The sun was beating down through the window and I immediately regretted my decision to wear a hoodie. I had just pulled up to a small park in my new neighborhood with my two dogs, Pretzel and Steve, in tow. Steve always gets anxious when I park the car, barking and yipping, trying to get out because he fears I’ll leave him behind.
I stepped out of the car, attempting to keep their leashes from tangling as I took in the park. Kids were shouting on the playground and families were playing frisbee as I looked for a bench to sit down on. Watching the families laugh and play, I was reminded again that I was far from my family. I found a spot and took a seat, tightly holding on to the dogs leashes. I was more nervous than usual, meeting up with a total stranger, in a brand new city.
My hands trembled a little as I fired off a quick text, “I’m here, on the bench with the dogs.”
A few minutes passed and I saw a woman waving across the park, I knew it must be Anne. She was tall and slender, walking casually through the park with the confidence of someone who felt at home.
We met on Facebook the week before when she kindly answered my question about local dog sitters. Her chihuahua passed away a year ago, and when she saw my post she felt called to help.
“Hi, you must be Sophie,” she said. It’s actually Sophia but I nodded anyways. I felt awkward, off kilter, and wanted desperately to start off on the right foot. “Should we walk the dogs around the park?” she asked. The park was small with a little paved loop that circled a dandelion littered field.
“Sure,” I responded as she took hold of Pretzel’s leash.
We started walking when she said,“take a look at this,” and unzipped her jacket to reveal a t-shirt featuring a chihuahua graphic. It was clear I had met a fellow Chihuahua fanatic.
“When I first lost Pickles about a year ago I didn’t know what to do. She was my entire world.” My heart ached as she described the unique and incomparable relationship we share with our pets. Anne felt a deep loss over her beloved pet, and I couldn’t help but feel that same ache when I thought about the life I left behind in Portland.
“But, after six months passed I decided to begin fostering. I am now a certified dog foster for a local shelter and have fostered over 10 dogs.” She began to rattle off her accolades, telling me she was a great fit for the job of watching my dogs.
I had recently moved to Seattle with my boyfriend after he accepted his dream job. In the past, we would always take the dogs to my mom’s when we went out of town. Now I hardly knew a soul and certainly didn’t have someone I trusted with my dogs here. While she mourned Pickles, I mourned my old life in Portland.
We finished walking the pavement loop. “Should we head over to my house? See how the dogs take to the space? I live just over there,” she pointed across the street.
“Yes,” I said, “that’s a great idea.” We walked slowly over to her house. She stopped to chat up a neighbor she hadn’t seen in a while. I politely listened in on their conversation; it seemed Anne had been out of town for a bit and was now back through the summer.
She lived in a quaint brick house with impeccable landscaping just a block from the park. We stepped into her house. The windows were cracked open as we got the first taste of spring with no air conditioning. I took a seat on the couch and we continued to chat.
She showed me photos of Pickles and described how when she first got the dog, “a whole new world opened up.”
We continued to connect over our love of our pets but what I enjoyed most was the small talk in between. She used to work for FEMA but was now retired; they had just remodeled their bathroom; her husband was recovering from a recent surgery. I never realized how much I missed listening to someone wax on about their life, no matter how mundane. The nerves I felt at the beginning of our meeting dissipated, and suddenly I felt like I’ve known Anne for ages.
We finished off the visit and agreed on a date for the dogs to stay over. As we stepped out her back door, I caught a glimpse of a ‘life is better with a chihuahua’ sticker on her car. She opened her arms to hug me and looked me in the eyes to say, “Hey, now you can say you have a friend in the neighborhood.”
I had felt so resolved to be lonely and convinced I wouldn’t find connection in Seattle. This small interaction made me feel just a little more connected to my new community.
- Photo: The Author’s Chihuahuas © Sophia Pollock is licensed under a All Rights Reserved license