Communities within Communities – Bedford Dogs

December 21, 2023

Here at the Bedford Citizen, we’re all about keeping our Bedford communities informed. We concentrate on the Bedford communities as a whole. 

Within Bedford, like many communities, there are smaller, more intimate communities. There are the communities for Pickleball, music, art, books, photography, food, and writers – just to name a few. 

Andrea Cleghorn, a well known writer in town, is part of a community of writers that loves dogs. She asked her community of writers to contribute essays on their dogs. The result is “Dog Tails.”

The book is now available on Amazon:  Dog Tales: An Unleashed Collection of True Stories 

The book contains essays on various topics on dogs and their relationships with their two-footed caregivers.  There was no shortage of stories.  

The essay below did not make the cut, but since it was about a subset of a community within a community, we share it with you here to give you a taste of what’s inside.

Forming Our Own Packs

By Gene Kalb

Harry Truman once said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” Truman, of course, meant that there were no real friends to be had in the world of politics. To turn the statement around though, if you want a friend anywhere, getting a dog is really good advice.

Many of the friends we have made, the neighbors we’ve met, the casual meaningful interactions, can, in a very large part, be traced back to our having dogs.

Our family got our first dog in 2005 when our daughter turned eight. Both my wife and I grew up with cats. We were crazy about them and all their quirks and eccentricities – cats are easy. However, I always wanted to get a dog. I didn’t just want a dog, I wanted specifically a yellow Lab.

We had a family friend who had a Lab and were shocked to find out that their super mellow Lab was just two years old. “We want one of those,” we said.

We got in touch with the friend’s breeder and lo and behold, we brought Milo home that spring. Raising a puppy is not for the faint of heart. Having a puppy was summarized best by another friend of ours who was an experienced dog person. She said, after seeing our exasperated look, “Everyone should at least raise a puppy…once.” The thing about a new puppy is you’re out with them – a lot!

Milo, the good boy. Photo by Gene Kalb

One thing I never anticipated, but now seems obvious in retrospect, is how social having a dog is. The first day we were out with Milo, we ran into another neighbor trying to figure out their new dog. We both had that look of “what did we get ourselves into?”

That casual acquaintance turned into hundreds of miles of dog walks together over the years. We live near a beautiful patch of conservation land where it’s safe from cars and the dogs can play off-leash. Our new friends started to coordinate when we would take our dogs out.  At first there were just two of us, soon to be followed by two more, and then others all started to coordinate our walks.  

Our pack kept growing.  Soon, there were regularly 10-plus people who would show up both in the morning and the afternoon. There is a real sense of camaraderie about being out in a 33-degree rain walking your dog with others who share that commitment. On these miserable days, I would always joke, “this is the page they leave out of the joys of dog ownership.” In a sense, it really is what it’s all about.  

Both Milo and our friends’ dogs from that original pack have moved on. We adopted another dog from a rescue organization and now have a whole new pack of friends with their dogs. Our pack has become a large part of our daily socialization.

During the pandemic, getting out with your dog was not only a social event, it was THE social event. Seeing people in person outside was a lifesaver. When people got sick, there was an instant caring network that jumped into action. Whether making soup or taking the afflicted person’s dog for a walk, we all felt a real sense of community.

These friendships have led to backyard BBQs with and without dogs. Hiking trips with the pups, and for the last 15 years, we’ve celebrated the holidays with what has become part of our Christmas traditions. Every Christmas Eve morning we partake in the annual Yankee Stick Swap. Coffee, donuts, cookies, and of course, sticks are our way of sharing that friendship.  

A Harvard Medical School study indicated that pet owners were 60 percent more likely than non–pet owners to get to know people in their neighborhoods they hadn’t known before.  

So Truman’s words still ring true: “If you want a friend, get a dog.”

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