On the afternoon before the Puppy Promenade was scheduled to take place, organizer Linda Hoadley, who lives next door to me, had no idea if it would actually happen. She’d come up with the idea of inviting neighborhood dogs and their so-called masters to congregate at the flagpole in front of Eberwhite School and walk, at a social distance, down Soule to Liberty and back as the rest of the neighborhood watched.
Our neighborhood seemed like a natural for this event. In addition to the dogs we see taken for walks every day, there have been countless more this summer, coming from farther afield as people have time to take their dogs for longer strolls. And Hoadley had enlisted aid from her neighbors on either side to publicize it. Fifteen-year-old Poppy Dudley helped create a flyer that she and Hoadley posted on trees and telephone poles and handed out in front of each of their houses. Poppy’s mother, Dianne Dudley, volunteered to meet whoever showed up at the school and organize them to leave at certain intervals.
My contribution was to send out several messages on the neighborhood email list, which I manage, to help publicize the event. But by the day of the tour, I had only received two replies, one saying she was sorry to miss it because she was up north and another suggesting some improvements if we did it again. Not one person replied with anything like “great idea” or “my dog and I would love to be part of it,”
A little before 7 p.m., the time the parade was scheduled to start, my husband Stan and I went outside to see if anything was happening. To my surprise, all around us other neighbors were doing the same thing–and when I looked up the street, I saw a whole bunch of dogs and their owners walking down from the school. The sight brought tears to my eyes. I couldn’t believe it was really happening!
Hoadley, a retired middle school teacher, had included a list of what was expected of the dogs, including, “Use your inside voice.” I did hear some barking just as the parade started, but then the dogs all became very well-behaved. They walked proudly with their owners and seemed to understand when bystanders commented on how cute or beautiful they were. There are a few dogs in the neighborhood that you can’t tell who is walking whom, but they either weren’t included, or they got with the program when they saw what the other dogs were doing.
Costumes were optional but quite a few dressed up. There were bows and ribbons, bandanas, tutus, and pom-poms. Lisa Patrell dressed her dog Venus with a sign touting state supreme court candidate Elizabeth Welch. Leslie Adams said her Charlie usually resists being dressed as a hot dog, but today he strode happily by. Stan started taking pictures of each dog that passed our house, but cried “uncle” after he reached twenty-five with many more coming.
Anne and Deron Brod were fostering a little dachshund who’d recently had an operation. They didn’t think he would be able to do the walk, so they pushed him in a stroller. Several older dogs, whose owners also didn’t think they were up to it, watched with their people from the sidelines.
When the walk ended, both spectators and dog owners gathered around the cross streets, masked and at safe distances, until it started to get dark and they reluctantly went back inside. It was obvious that people were hungry for talk and socializing.
A few days later we received an email addressed to myself, Linda, and the Dudleys from neighbor Caroline Gray, who wrote “We loved having a way for our little girl to interact with her neighbors (and their furry friends) while staying safe.” I told Linda she was in trouble now–she’d have to organize this event every year or she would have a riot on her hands.