no. 06: When Community Goes to the Dogs

Nat and I moved to Wheat Ridge in 2000 after renting in the Highlands for several years. It was time to buy a house, but more importantly... it was time to get a puppy! During the search we looked at many houses in as many neighborhoods. When we wandered into Wheat Ridge we quickly realized that, for the money, we could get a lot more house and a lot more yard. We found our house, knocked on a few doors to get a feel for the block, signed the papers and made it our home.

As we settled in and got to know our neighbors, Nat and I realized that we are awful at remembering names! Each time we met a new neighbor we would run in the house and try to write down names before we forgot them: mom, dad, kids, and pets. Over time we realized we seem to be good at remembering the dogs’ names and our neighbors were “Solo’s folks” until we remembered Jenny and Kevin, and “Stella’s parents” until we remembered Laurie and Bob, and so on and so on! When we brought our puppy home, I wondered if anyone referred to me as “Samson’s mom”.

Walking Samson created opportunities to connect with old and new neighbors. His (loud! friendly!) bark announced our approach, greeted all dogs that passed by and prompted conversations between humans while the dogs had their own meet and greet.

Through these chats we have learned that many folks on our block were longtime residents; they told us great stories of the families, friendships and parties that made up the history of our block. We added to this history by celebrating a neighbor’s 101st and 102nd birthday in her front yard. We swapped zucchinis and tomatoes, helped each other plant and take down trees, and had a block outing to a local Italian spot for dinner. I realize that Samson, and all the dogs that live on or are walked down the block, have played an important part in developing my sense of neighborhood.

Recently, we have had some turnover on our block. New neighbors and younger families have moved in, adding more layers to the story of where we live. While I have gotten better at remembering people names, it just seems more personal, and more connected, to say “Welcome to the block, Cash’s folks, and Desmond and Penny’s folks! We are glad you are here!”

And while Samson will be 14 this summer, and starting to slow down, he is always ready to head out the door to see his friends.

When not playing with her black lab Samson, Kathleen dabbles in gardening, cooking and photography, and is an advocate for beer and wine in cans. She loves being on or near the water, which is curious as she has only lived in land-locked Colorado and Kansas.

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