Swift: Man's best friend makes everyone friends

I meet them during almost every dog walk.She's a slim, dark-haired lady who wears many layers against North Dakota's cold - just like someone who moved here so recently she still can't believe the bone-rattling temperatures. She walks the cutest ...

Tammy Swift
Tammy Swift

I meet them during almost every dog walk.

She's a slim, dark-haired lady who wears many layers against North Dakota's cold - just like someone who moved here so recently she still can't believe the bone-rattling temperatures. She walks the cutest dog - some kind of Bichmaltipoozoo mix. He wears a green sweater, which looks quite dapper against his white, fluffy coat.

Kita is nuts about him. He is the Shawn Cassidy to her brace-faced, giggling preteen self. She pulls on her leash like a tiny sled dog when she sees him. I cannot resist her girlish devotion, and so I will let her approach the man of her dreams.

They perform their little courtship ritual, hopping and circling, pouncing and flirting. There will be a jockeying for position for the Ceremonial Sniffing of Rear Ends. She is smaller than he is, and black as coal. If we must get anthropomorphic about it, they are an adorable couple - the Gwen and Blake of the four-legged set.

We - the chaperones - look on, smiling indulgently. She told me her dog's name once, but her accent was so thick that I couldn't quite make it out. It sounded like Bogey. I've tried to engage her in conversation in the past, but she'll smilingly shake her head. "No English," she said.


So there we are, silently sharing a moment of joy. We make eye contact and chuckle, bonded for a few minutes by two enthusiastic bundles of fur. We don't speak the same language beyond the universal communication of pet ownership. Then we untangle the lovebirds, nod congenially at each other and continue on our ways.

And so it is in the world of dog-walking. Dogs instantly break down walls and make friends of complete strangers. I have had people screech to a halt in the middle of the street to yell out their car windows, "What kind of dog is that?" or "Your dog is adorable." Other pedestrians will stop and tell me they once had a dog exactly like mine. Huge, hulking lumberjack types have scrunched down to hold out their giant mitts for Kita to sniff.

If the other person is also walking a dog, there is often a little conversation. "I love your dog. What kind is it? A Great Danehuahua? Wow. How did that happen? How old is he? He sure seems to like fire hydrants. Yeah, you might want to watch out for my dog. She's tiny but feisty. She has growled at mastiffs before."

Once, I was walking Kita through a park when I came across a woman walking an adorably slouchy Basset hound. We did the usual chit chat, while Kita picked that moment to fertilize the grass. I dug in my pockets, realizing I had forgotten a bag. I saw a roll of bags dangling from her leash. "Would you mind terribly donating one to me?" I asked this complete stranger. "I forgot mine."

"No problem!" she said, immediately handing one over. "I've been in that predicament myself."

We waved goodbye, each smiling after that brief moment of pleasant connection.

And this is how it is - nine times out of 10. (The 10th is when the other dog is a massive Cujo type, who is basically dragging his owner behind him and who is eyeing Kita like she'd make a tasty snack.)

It's a fact. Dogs - as long as they are trained and well-behaved - bond people. They immediately break down barriers. They make us happier and friendlier. They make it OK to strike up a conversation with someone we might normally ignore.


This is why I propose that all world leaders and heads of state meet under these conditions: They should have just had warm chocolate chip cookies with cold milk, have taken a nap and be required to be in the company of wrestling puppies. Who could be grumpy in such circumstances?

Just imagine the bonding if one of the pooches had an accident: Obama would lovingly scold the offender while Putin dashed off to the Executive Broom Closet to fetch a can of carpet cleaner. They would chuckle conspiratorially as David Cameron mopped up the mess.

Seriously. This should be a thing.

Forget peace talks. Let's have leash talks.


Readers can reach columnist Tammy Swift at

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