‘Damond on How Dogs Help Build Community’ by Danny Harris

Danny Harris is a DC-based photographer, DJ, and collector of stories. He launched People’s District, a blog that tells a people’s history of DC by sharing the stories and images of its residents. You can follow People’s District on Twitter @PeoplesDistrict, and can read his previous columns here.

“Like many people, I came here because of the federal government. I am from San Diego, and moved here ten years ago to work as an auditor for the Department of Labor. The city really is everything I thought it would be. It’s eclectic, full of history, and there is lots to do. I wasn’t sure how long I would stay when I first got here, but this place is definitely home now.

“I think that a big part of why it feels like home is because I bought a house a couple of months back and I also got Maggie, my baby girl. I never had a dog before, but always wanted a miniature dachshund. Maggie is even better than I could have ever imagined! I come home from work and it is so nice to have a warm body waiting for me who is always happy. And, she’s even come to take on my personality. She is very laid back….and she doesn’t bark!

“I see how much different things are for me now that I have a dog. Day-to-day, we, as citizens, don’t really speak to each other much. Having Maggie changes that for me. A dog invites people to engage and say, ‘hi’. People always stop me to ask my dog’s name and if they can pet her. Before Maggie, I fell into the category of keeping my head down and handing my business. I didn’t really talk to strangers if I had no reason. Now, that I have a dog, I find that I am more open to conversation. I notice dogs and people more, and am always inquiring about different tips and treats, and a plethora of other topics.

Continues after the jump.

“I think that dogs are so important to community because, to a certain degree, most people are animal lovers. To see a baby animal, regardless of what it is, is very intriguing to most people. Now, I don’t think that all people should walk around with pets as a way to make this city feel more like a community – it is never a good idea to let people have everything – but I think that having Maggie has really impacted my view of this city for the better.”

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43 Comment

  • Great post. I’ll add one thing: just walking your dog around your neighborhood gives you a good opportunity to interact with your neighbors and community, even if they’re not animal lovers. The simple act of being out and about, and wandering aimlessly, is enough.

  • Dogs are by far the best! I have two and they are loved by everyone who comes in contact with them. I know a lot more people on my block and building because of them. Dogs ROCK!!

    • as a public service, I will remind you that not everyone loves your dogs. or any dogs. behave accordingly.

      • Bet you TONS of friends…

        • seriously? because I’m not a dog person, you think I don’t have friends? should I apologize for not liking when I step in the remnants of your dog’s sh*t or when your ill-behaved dog leaves slobber and fur on my suit pants on my way to work? how about when it snaps at my toddler because you can’t control it? it’s the entitlement and lack of owners’ control over dogs that I have a problem with. the same way some people don’t care for children because their parents are horrible.

          non-dog people are tolerant, loving, and considerate folks who just happen to not be in love with your dog. oh, and we’re everywhere. deal with it.

  • Prince of Petworth will attest that not all miniature dachshunds are quiet. Our two little ones are across the alley from him and I guarantee they can be heard in a three block radius whenever a squirrel comes through the yard or the UPS guy drives down the street.

  • houseintherear

    Well said, Damond. It’s so hard to describe the feeling of fulfillment a dog can bring to someone’s life.

  • Yeah i have to fully admit if we didn’t have our dog before moving to Petworth i’m sure we would have fallen into that category of the closeted white people. But having our cute Lab definitely opens up many opportunities to meet people and walk around the neighborhood. Also our dog likes to eat food off the sidewalks so she is also giving back to the community by cleaning the streets to our dismay. especially chicken bones which people love to throw everywhere for some reason.

    • FYI

      A vet once told me that you should never let a dog eat chicken or turkey bones. Apparently, they tend to splinter and can cause serious damage to a dog throat.

      • It’s true, but there’s only so much you can do. Sometimes they just get to them before you can stop ’em.

        • Try prying an entire turkey head – with beak, eyeballs and a great ruff of feathers still on it, out of your dog’s mouth! Honestly – last week in Rock Creek park!

    • Has nobody told you the story of Johnny Chickenboneseed?? I swear he crosses through Petworth daily!

  • I definitely agree with this. I love taking my dog for walks and I have met many of my neighbors while walking him. It really forces me to get out and talk to people!

  • I’ve really gotten used to not having a dog, but I sure miss having one. I’m going to start looking at shelters when it gets warmer out (if it ever does.)

  • I have been feeling so disconnected from the neighborhood since we put our dog to sleep. 🙁

  • This is a sweet story. I absolutely love PeoplesDistrict stories and most of them are about struggle but it’s so nice to hear a happy story too!

  • What a great post! I can’t agree with you more. My wife and I were also in DC for government jobs when we met. We lived in NOVA for 3 years and then said – “what are we doing in VA when we could live in DC?” So we moved to DC, fell in love with H Street, and opened Metro Mutts. I have to say that if it wasn’t for my 2 dogs and all the neighbors we met while walking, I don’t think we would have ever opened the store. We now know most of our neighbors and continue to enjoy the friendships that are formed on a simple dog walk.

    • Your store rocks, btw. I don’t live in the neighborhood but have gone across town to patronize your store because of the friendly service and positive experiences I have always had there.

      I cannot remember the name of the great cat that hangs there, too, shamelessly rolling over for belly rubs.

    • We just bought a house in Capitol Hill after living in NoVA for three years to save money. In NoVA we felt very isolated because no one ever set foot outside except to get into a car. On a single day on the Hill I interact more with my neighbors than I did the whole time we were in Virginia, and our dogs are largely to thank for that!

      BTW I plan on checking out your store soon!

  • Love this post. I am also pleasantly surprised that no one has jumped in the comments trashing people for “treating dogs like humans” and other such comments that usually pop up when there is a pooch related post here on the blog.

  • Maggie is cute and I like that GREEN sweater!

  • Steve – behave accordingly? Its a great article with great responses about how dogs build and help the community and peoples lives. I don’t think anyone is looking for a public service announcement. You could us a dog in your life…

  • Great post!

  • I love dogs too. I have a mini dachshund as well, they are sweet,loving, quirky, habitual little creatures. Be sure and do all of us dog owners a favor and pick up your poop. Nothing gets a dog sicker than stepping in another dogs poop, licking it, and getting sick (let a lone tracking it into your house).

  • Dachshunds Rule ! Maggie is beautiful too.

    I had a black & tan as well, we loved her so much.

    My 15yr old ‘clear red’ is also a lovable beautiful girl and in great health.

    I’ve never ever seen a quiet one though, they’re just in charge and need to make sure that message is clear.

  • I live in Takoma Park and without my dog I would feel as empty and disconnected there as in any other neighborhood. With him, my life is lived daily interacting with my neighbors. Sure, some people are afraid and I try to be respectful of that, but I really feel the sense of place that a dog brings out in people. Great article!

  • Awesome. I couldn’t agree more. Although I don’t have a pet, I do appreciate others’ pets and how people with nothing in common can be brought together by the cutenss of a puppy running in a park. Pets definitely help build community.

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