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Mike and Anita James

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Aug '11

It’s a Dog’s Life

When we got our dog, Boomer, 5 years ago, I was unaware of a subculture here in The Netherlands.  That subculture is dog owners.  I remember walking with our puppy and having strangers come up to us talking about our dog.  Normally, people here don’t do something like that; they’re much more private.

We definitely weren’t your typical dog owners at the beginning.  We didn’t take our dog for as many walks as most people around here did.  We were happy to let him out in the back yard to do what he needed to do.  In the last few years, I’ve learned to really enjoy taking Boomer for a daily walk.  During the week, we walk for 1.5 miles and on the weekends, we bump it up to 2 miles.  It’s something he very much likes to do.  During these outings, I realized that I slowly had become part of the dog-owning subculture or “one of them.”

In the beginning, I never let Boomer off his leash.  Inside our house, he was apt to bark at anything – especially dogs – that walked by.  He also wasn’t the most obedient.  I was afraid that if I let him loose, I’d never get him back.  Plus, he constantly pulled trying to get to other dogs.  I only saw the bad that could come from that.  I eventually got to the point that I started letting him loose, but only in certain areas where everyone else did.  I started to encounter the same people/dogs everyday.  It reminded me a bit of children’s church.  While I might know all the kids’ names, I have a hard time with their parents’ names.  I found myself talking to the dogs and calling them by name but having no clue as to the owners’ names.

One day, I met a lady walking her dog.  Sometime into our conversation, here’s what was said:

Her – “Ben je een Nederlander?” (Are you Dutch)

Me – “Nee, ik kom uit Amerika.” (No, I’m from America.)

Her – “I’m English!”

Since then, when I see Harvey (I still don’t know her name), I immediately speak English.

Not too long ago, while Boomer and I were out for our walk, I came across someone with their dogs that I’d never seen before.  I went a little further and ran across my neighbor.  Yes, I do know his name.  🙂  As we were talking, he pointed to the other man with his dogs and asked me if I knew them.  I said, “No, I’ve never seen them walking around here before.”  It hit me then: I’ve become one of them.  I’ve found that when I’m jogging, other joggers greet me like we’re great friends.  When I’m walking my dog, I really have built relationships because of Boomer.

Last week, Boomer had to have surgery to remove stones from his bladder.  He has stitches and isn’t allowed to scratch them.  In the house, he has to wear a t-shirt that is more like a onesie.  It even has snaps that go on either side of his tail.  It’s better for him than a cone, but it’s a bit of a hassle for us at times.

Boomer's onesie

When I’m taking him for a walk, it’s definitely in the way, so I take it off.  Until the stitches come out, he has to stay on his leash while on walks.  I feel like we’ve stepped back in time when I was afraid to let him loose.  I’m also concerned with what the other owners will say.  Yep, I’m definitely “one of them!”

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