Confessions of the Dog Walker

In case anyone didn’t know, I kind of live in the town Footloose was based off of.  So when I get the chance to run into the night towards the big city, I take it.

For the past two weeks I have been living in the city at a family friend’s house watching her dog and cat.  They are delightful pets and I truly appreciate the opportunity it is to be (somewhat) independent in the city.  Dog walking is kind of like babysitting.  Except there is less crying, more picking up shit, and an odd feeling of “Oh, my god, I am the only one keeping you alive!”

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This little nugget is Roki, the Shiba Inu.  He doesn’t jump around, he doesn’t lick your face, he doesn’t beg for food.  What does he do all day, you ask?  He lounges.  This dog is a Canine of Leisure.  He is basically a cat.  He has his own lounging chair with a window view of the courtyard.  Not that anyone else would want to sit on it — it’s covered in dog hair.  He is the Queen of Shiba Inu (see what I did there?).

Queen of Shiba

He doesn’t need you to pet him, he tells you when you can.  As if he is doing me a favor.  Oh thank you, Queen Roki!  I am humbled by your acceptance.  Please take this dog treat as a sign of my gratitude.  But honestly, that’s what I love about him.  My dog at home is so needy.  She stares at you intently, waiting for you to pet her.  You can see her trying to will you into a scratch behind the ears.  She sneaks in a lick to your face when you put her leash on.  She will crawl onto the couch, nuzzling against you until you tell her to get down.

But this guy, he’s like, “Eh, rather not.  More treats, slave girl!”

We have a routine.  Every morning I wake up at 6am, hit the snooze button til 6:30, and get up for our morning walks.  People are lucky if I am fully clothed for our morning walks.  I usually wear whatever shirt I slept in, a pair of shorts, and Vans with the heels folded over.  I don’t like our morning walks.  But funnily enough, even Roki doesn’t like our morning walks either.  He feels just as passionately about them as I do.  We do it because when we look at each other right before we open the front door, we telepathically say to one another, “It’s either this, or cleaning up dog shit first thing when getting back from work.”

We do the bare minimum for the morning walks.  We walk to the park right next door, do what needs to be done, and run home as fast as our combined six legs can manage.  He doesn’t like them so much that sometimes he tries to make me turn around and go home.  He blocks my path, which makes me almost trip over him every time.

He doesn't want to go on his walk today. #Shiba #Dogwalker #SummertimeSadness

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But then he gets to mock me while I get ready to leave for work in the morning.  I get out of the shower to this little bastard:

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I get it, Roki.  You get to lounge all day while I put food in the dog bowl.  But you don’t have to rub it in!  Wait until I leave at least.  

But it’s the evening walks where we truly shine. There is no time limit for the evening walks.  There is no rush.  So I let him lead.  This dog is amazing.  For the evening walks, he is completely in charge.  I let him go wherever he wants.  If he wants to go all the way up Kimball and then cut through a sleepy neighborhood street to poke around, I let him.  I let him because no matter what, he knows how to get home. 

He knows how to get home.  

I don’t need to pull out my phone, wondering where we are.  Because it doesn’t matter.  When he is ready, he will go home.  It’s like Doggie SatNav.  It’s awesome.  The only thing I have against the evening walks is that I get a lot more attention than the morning walks.  People stop me to ask if Roki is a fox.  It’s an alarmingly ongoing occurrence.  Yes, person I do not know, I have successfully captured a city fox, trained it, and can now gallivant about town with it.

But I can say that what’s worse than the dumb fox question, is the larger amount of cat calling that happens from our dog walks.  I have had people shout at me from cars, and ring the bells of their bicycles at us.  But Allex, you’re thinking, maybe they’re just excited about how cute Roki is.  I wish this was true, dear reader.  But one does not shout, “Hey pretty lady!” while admiring a dog.  I even got a few kissy kisses thrown at me.  This is part of the reason that I wear headphones while walking Roki, which blocks out the harassment, but also puts me in a dangerous situation from getting attacked.  Granted, it’s usually 6pm and still daylight when we go on our walks, but still.  It can happen.  I can either get harassed on the streets, or subject myself to danger.

Leave me alone, people.  I am walking my dog.  I am tired from working, and the last thing I want to deal with is what you have to say about me.  Just let me dog walk in peace.

But there are a lot of good things that come from our walks.  I know the local dogs — and sometimes even their cute owners.  The cute black collie that comes with its tall, dark, and handsome pseudo tortured artist owner.  The pug and beagle with their business-casually clad, thick rimmed glasses wearing Looper.  Hoping for my very own 101 Dalmations meet cute.

Hey, I can dream, can’t I?  Either way, it’s fun making these connections when I really don’t know these people at all, but always smile and say hello to.  That’s camaraderie.  I like dog walking.  I like dog sitting.  I like it all.  Except the picking up of dog shit.  That’s not ever fun.


I Hate Winter. Period.

Maybe I should rephrase that.  I hate winter in Chicago.  In London, it doesn’t really snow.  Yes, it gets cold.  But it doesn’t get a low temperature of -50 degrees Fahrenheit, with expected wind chill on top of it.  But Chicago does.

In London, this closes school:

In Chicago, that’s what people pray for.  That’s what they want to commute in.  That, up there, is child’s play.  All of London shuts down when that happens.  But not in Chicago.  Even when I lived in Connecticut, if it snowed a lot, we got a snow day.  And waking up knowing you will have a snow day vs. waking up knowing you have to go to school are two different experiences.  Snow day wake ups involve practically backflipping out of bed, and planning your entire day.Waking up knowing that you have to go to school  is the exact opposite.  There is no spring in your step.  There is nothing to look forward to.  It sucks.  But at least you have the chance of having a snow day, and the chance of waking up one morning happy.

In Chicago, if it snows, nobody cares.  Because there are plows lined up, waiting to rain on children’s parades.  I didn’t get a snow day in Illinois until I was a senior in college — and even then, I had to work so no adult snow days for me.  When my brother was younger, he used to tell my parents how he wanted to become a garbage man and then when he was fired become a snow plow man.  Although he did not know that it was possible for himself to work both jobs, honestly, why would he ever want that?  Little did he know that he would become the person all school kids hate.  He would become the person who single-handedly crushed children’s dreams with each working day.

Chicago weather is by far the most painful weather.  Extreme cold — as I have mentioned before — is the worst.  And Chicago’s extreme cold is no exception.  It cuts through you like knives.  I am wearing a scarf right now, while sitting in my parents’ den because I am so cold.  When in London, you always need to have an umbrella and sunglasses on hand because you don’t know what the weather might do.  But in Chicago, you know.  When it’s winter, you need the works.  Hat, gloves, scarf, sweater, coat, boots.  You know that scene in A Christmas Story when Randy has to put all that crap on to keep warm?

 Yeah, that’s how I dress to let the dog out in our backyard.  It’s nuts.  And horrible.

I hate snow.  I hate the way it looks, I hate the way it feels.  I hate shoveling it, snow-blowing it, driving in it, getting it in my shoe and making my toes cold, and moving it from one part of my driveway to the other.  So having to be surrounded by it is a nightmare.

It really makes me think about moving to Florida, but then I am immediately reminded how there is absolutely nothing worse than being in Florida.  Maybe I can do with San Diego or somewhere that is not LA in California.  But not Chicago.  Not until I have the ability to just spray myself down with snow-repelling spray.

Also, can someone PLEASE invent snow-repelling spray?

I’ll Be Home for Christmas (as well as everyone else)

When people ask me where I am from, it’s easier to say I’m from Chicago because if I say I’m from Wheaton, Illinois they have no idea what I am talking about.  Even worse, if people ask me about Wheaton in general, I have to tell them how it has more churches per capita than any other town in America and that Wheaton College, which is down the street from my house, was like the town from Footloose but with much more restrictions.  Students were banned from most forms of social dance, drinking, or smoking at social events.  Although they have loosened some of the restrictions, there are still many things not allowed.

Yeah, this is where I live.

That’s the devil dancing in him.

There is only ONE free-standing bar in Wheaton, and it is a complete dive.  Everywhere else is a bar and grill type of place.  So when I come home, I don’t drink.  Not because I have no friends and have no one to to go with, but because there is NO WHERE to go and I have no car so I can’t really go too far.  But last week, I actually went out.  I went to one of our local bar and restaurant, Muldoon’s, and tried to have a good time with my best friend from high school.

But little did I know that everyone that I had ever gone to high school with — and disliked — would be there too.  The thing about Wheaton is that everyone here has been going to school with each other since they were five years old.  I moved to Wheaton when I was 14, a sophomore in high school.  So I knew no one but my three cousins, who were and still are infinitely cooler that I was/am.  And at this point in everyone’s lives, they knew who their friends were, and didn’t need to make new ones.  So I was a bit lost in the shuffle.  I played three sports, was in two clubs, and took all honors classes; and yet, no one really connected with me.

Yes, I had my few high school friends, but now I talk to one of them.  So it was weird going to this bar and seeing everyone who were friends in high school just picking up where they left off on Holiday Break.  It was as if 6 years had not passed.  We were frozen in time.  Well they were.  I felt kinda like this:

What was even weirder was that for me, it was like being a reporter on the red carpet.  I was looking around nudging my friend and being like, “Oh, my god.  It’s So-and-So!  And look! Over there!  It’s Whats-Her-Face!”  While my friend scowled next to me, telling me to shut up.

I went to the bathroom and ran into a girl that I a) went to high school with for three years and b) took some classes with as well as c) spent four years at the same college and d) bumping into and said hello to on the quad.  But when I saw her at the bar, it was as if she was looking at a stranger.  I don’t mind, really.  We weren’t best friends who braided each others’ hair and had sleepovers.  But we still knew of one another.  It’s just funny to me how insignificantly I impacted anyone’s lives I went to high school with.

But when I went out with my friends from college, a week before, it was like :I love being home and I love spending time with my family.  But being in Wheaton itself is the most boring, life-draining thing anyone can do.  And going out just further proved how I do not belong in this small Christian town.

I need to live in a city.