For those who were unawares, my everyday/daytime identity is Dog Runner, or alternately, Canine Fitness Specialist. When I got a part-time gig as a research assistant, internet-bound, I sought something that would get me out of my cozy hobbit hole and into the heart of New York. Since I was something of a star cross-country runner in high school (go figure), the Running Paws company took me on quite readily. Though I’d long since strayed from the routine of running and, indeed, sportiness in general, I truly believe that distance running is a state of mind. A love of challenge, a capacity for endurance, and resilience to nature’s obstacles are intrinsic to the long-distance runner- maybe I should throw loneliness in there as well.
So, every day, I log into my “dog schedule” before 10 am and confirm- usually a set schedule, but important to note cancellations and additions. Typically, I get into Manhattan sometime between 11:30 and 12:30, and am usually done before 4:30. My days begin and end with half-hour puppy-care visits with Nigel, a 4-month-old cocker spaniel whose nascent development I’ve been proud to help nurture. He is incredibly soft and cute, and enjoys peeing on the floor and wagging his tail maniacally at passers-by. Also gnawing on my shoes:
Once or twice a week, I play with a Boston Terrier puppy named Maddy, who is a little princess and hates the cold. So, she wears a puffy coat. I try to stay bundled, too: In terms of running, my favorite dog to run with is a standard black poodle named Jasper. Actually, Jasper does not run, he bounds, and his exuberance is completely infectious. He is a strange doggie dancer, at times leaping higher than my headtop. Additionally, he is quite prone to tearing after squirrels, the excitement of which leaves him frenzied and sprinting as I race to match his pace:
Every time he spots an approaching puppy, he sits himself down quite gingerly and cocks his head, inviting a cautious greeting/butt-sniff dance. He nose me: In truth, this job has fast become integral to my identity, or at least the one I perform in public. While my nighttime hours can best be described by the reverie of the internet and the cultivation of words and ideas, it’s generally hard to talk about things you’re literally writing a book about. Rather, I take delight in extolling the virtues of exercise and animal friendship, relating the everyday frustrations and hilarities that make up my daily life. The city streets have become my oyster, teeming with novelty and potential connections. I have made someone’s day on countless occasions, and vice versa. That’s enough to keep me going, through the cold and the wind, the piss and the poo.
Also, pups are way more fun to hang out with than most people.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust