Building new friendships during a pandemic, all because of my dog

We lend each other stuff, pass on new clothes or carriers that just didn't fit our pups but might fit another, and give each other things that our dogs don't need anymore.

Because of Mochi, I've developed real, new friendships during the pandemic (and as an adult!!!), and every week, I'm in awe that new potential friends keep showing up in our lives.

This week, on one of our morning walks, Mochi and I met a gorgeous and handsome little pup named Chase. He and his owner had just moved to the neighborhood, and had decided to visit one of our favorite, tucked away dog parks to play. The two pups hit it off immediately, and so did the humans! I even ended up showing Chase's dad how to do the treat chase game Mochi loves, since Chase the dog seemed to love it too.

The next morning, we ran into them again on Mochi's morning walk, and even though we were separated by a small lawn, they demonstrated how much fun Chase was still have playing treat chase on the sidewalk, when he had never shown interest in treats on walks before! I was so happy to see it, and even now, I cannot wait to run into them again.

I've never been someone who has tried to form bonds with the people that live near me, with college dorm life as the sole exception. Growing up, I didn't even know the name of our neighbors. When I got my first job in DC, I had no idea who my literal neighbors were, much less my figurative ones from across the neighborhood. To this day, I still don't really know anyone who lives in the same building as me — though, I hear that's something pretty common in NYC 😅.

But in 2020, because of how much being around other dogs made Mochi happy, and because I needed to talk to someone, anyone, who could understand all the tears and frustration of her first months of fear rehab, I made an effort to get to know more dog parents. A couple of them ended up being people who lived in my neighborhood, and many, many others lived only a subway trip away in New York City.

Now, I'm DMing or texting someone I've met in the last 7 months every day, and we self-organize playdates, hold outdoor, socially-distanced doggy birthday parties, commiserate over everything that just feels so hard, and celebrate and cheer for each other's victories.

Outside of our dogs, however, some of those relationships have become real friendships. For the first time, I have a real friend (hi Julia!) who lives in my neighborhood and we text each other about neighborhood stuff! Such as when we both heard an extremely loud BANG in the area on our evening walk and it turned out to be a shooting, or when one of the outdoor dining structures collapsed on Julia's street during a wind storm, or when we run into film shoots in the park or on the streets nearby.

Don't get me wrong, we definitely also talk about our dogs a lot — Mochi and Louie are best friends after all, with weekly playdates — but Julia and I also talk about work, our partners, sometimes even politics, and even if the topics do like to gravitate back to our pups, they're the reason we've connected, and that's something I'm happy to lean into.

Because of Mochi, I've also made a friend in the neighborhood, who, like me, makes intense, professional-level spreadsheets for her dog, and we're excited to geek out and compare notes and maybe even host some kind of dog spreadsheeting session together. So, get ready for that.

Mochi and me, looking very happy, posing for a photo in a park with snow on the ground.
Mochi and I at a pack walk organized by my trainer Andrew Solis, in a photo taken by Yasemin Tulça, a professional photographer who also adopted a pup from Korean K9 Rescue! At pack walks, we get to meet a ton of other dogs also adopted from the same rescue, and I get to put faces to Instagram handles.

In addition to the people in my neighborhood, I've also met an even bigger group of extremely supportive dog owners through Instagram (and through the Facebook alumni group our rescue put together). In a moment where my personal and professional lives seem to have merged, this broader network feels to me just like a mutual aid group built around our pups and our shared values in helping them.

We trade tips, we encourage each other, and we look at cute pictures of our dogs. We lend each other stuff, pass on new clothes or carriers that just didn't fit our pups but might fit another, and give each other things that our dogs don't need anymore. We ask each other for advice and tips and talk to one another with compassion and encouragement.

Most importantly, this broader group of people have been instrumental in calming me down when I used to panic about Mochi and proving to me every day that dogs with similar stories as Mochi can thrive. One of the reasons why I'm so motivated to share Mochi's progress is because I constantly see people who adopted a rescue just a few months after me, and they're going through the same things I did. It's like looking through a time machine, and I starkly remember how critical it was for me back then, to see examples of how much better things will get.

If you have a dog and you're looking to join this kind of community wherever you live, please give it shot! And if something doesn't seem to exist already, you can build it. Later today, I'm hosting a neighborhood pack walk for the first time in Long Island City, in honor of Mochi's upcoming birthday on Tuesday. All it took to organize was me reaching out and telling people I wanted to host neighborhood walks, and to DM me if you were interested in joining. In addition to seeing her friends, we'll also be seeing a lot of new dogs Mochi's never met, but I've been following on Instagram, and I can't wait for her to meet them!

Finally, if it wasn't already obvious, I love the Instagram dog community a lot, so if you want to join but need tips on how to start engaging, send me a note, I'm happy to help.

Sincerely,

🐕 Mochi and 👩🏻 Sisi