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How Being a Pet Parent Has Changed My Social Life

My happy hour used to be cocktails with friends. Now I take a walk with Riggins, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Wendy Newell  |  Dec 3rd 2015


I don’t have human children, so I’m not going to pretend I know what happens to your social life when you have tiny humans relying on you 24/7. I do have friends who know this joy, though. Friends who plead with me to go have fun since they think I still have time they now don’t. What they may not understand is that I have parental responsibilities, too. Just like what happened to my human parent friends, becoming a pet parent changed my social life.

Of course, I realize that being Mom to my 10-year-old German Shorthair Pointer mix, Riggins, isn’t at the same level of time-suck (said in the nicest possible way) as parenting a human child. I’m not completely delusional. After all, Riggins will happily nap on my bed while I’m at exercise class for an hour. He will even be there when I get back, without the looming threat of child protective services swooping him up due to my neglect.

Riggins and me Nov. 2015. (All photos courtesy of Wendy Newell.)

Riggins and me last month. (Photo courtesy Wendy Newell)

Even so, for people like me, the people whose dog is part of their family, the responsibility that comes with ownership does affect where, how, and when I interact with other people. Here’s how Riggins has affected my social life.

1. Riggins’ needs dictate where we live

When someone tells me they are from one particular neighborhood near mine, my automatic question is always, “For the schools?” The answer is always yes. Families want to live in good neighborhoods where their children can get a quality education and play with their friends.

The latter is no different for pet parents. I chose the last two places where I have lived because of Riggins.

Riggins in his favorite place in his backyard.

Riggins in his favorite place in our current backyard. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

The first move happened before I even had a pup. My boyfriend at the time and I lived in an apartment near Santa Monica, California. The complex didn’t allow dogs, so we moved to a very cool and hip apartment off Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood.

If you look on a map, my old and new apartments were only about 10 miles away from each other, but in L.A. life, that added an hour to my daily commute — each way. At least, for the time being, I was still in a fun neighborhood.

That all changed with my second move. My boyfriend and I broke up, and as a single pet parent I had to think about what would happen to my latchkey pup. It became obvious that my rambunctious mutt would need his own backyard. That meant moving to where only boring people lived in L.A. — “the other side of the hill.”

You see, the Hollywood part of Los Angeles is separated by part of the Santa Monica mountains. The fun kids live on the West Hollywood side, where they can sip cocktails with celebrities at Bar Marmont. Or at least wave a hand in that general direction while heading to a more casual Sunset Strip hangout.

Heading to his backyard after I told him not to bury his bone (this is an old picture - he doesn't get those kind of treats anymore).

Heading to his backyard after I told him not to bury his bone (this is an old picture — he doesn’t get those kind of treats anymore). (Photo by Wendy Newell)

The uncool kids, those who have given up on life and decided to be more domesticated, live on the other side of the hill. I was never going to live there — until I needed affordable housing for my dog and me.

I can’t overstate how that small move changed my social life. I moved from an area that was so dog friendly it was almost odd not to be eating on the patio with your pooch to a neighborhood that I swear put up a “no dogs allowed” sign at the car wash specifically because of me.

If I want to spend time with Riggins, and I do, social activities move from outdoor cafes to backyards and dog parks.

2. There are no more sleepovers

I have to get home to this cutie!

I have to get home to this cutie! (Photo by Wendy Newell)

As a single lady, I was dating, but there could be no sleepovers at someone’s house. I had to get home to Riggins. It was non-negotiable.

“Real” single parents have to get back to their sitter. I had to get back to let my baby boy out to go pee. That’s all I have to say about that — because I’m a lady and my mom reads my articles.

3. Happy hour has changed

My new happy hour. Out with Riggins and his dog friends.

My new happy hour. Out with Riggins and his dog friends. (Photo courtesy Wendy Newell)

Happy hour is the best. Why is it the best? For one, you aren’t at work anymore. The day is over, and you are free to shake off whatever made you grind your teeth at your desk. Second, it usually includes a delicious cocktail. Finally, you are often surrounding by people just as happy about happy hour as you are.

As a single parent to a dog, I can’t do happy hour until I head home to check on Riggins. This includes taking him for a long walk and lovingly plopping a scoop of kibble in his bowl. For years, I had to head home directly from work to take Riggins out for an hour. It had to be AT LEAST an hour, or he would still have too much energy to calm down at night.

Fun with friends and their dogs at Bee Rock in Griffith Park.

Fun with friends and their dogs at Bee Rock in Griffith Park. (Photo courtesy Wendy Newell)

My happy hour has changed from cocktails with friends to neighborhood strolls, jogs, or runs with my boy.

4. Sleeping in

If you think only human kids get you up and out of your comfy bed early on a Saturday morning, you are mistaken! Riggins and I are up, dressed, and on the hills hiking long before most of my friends with kids have poured their first cup of coffee.

I use to sleep in. I think. I can’t remember anymore.

Out hiking bright and early.

Out hiking bright and early. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

5. Dog friends

Much like parents with kids tend to come together through PTA and Scouts activities, we dog parents find others like us.

My dog girlfriends understand how important Riggins is to me because they have their own furry babies. We are there to support each other, have fun together, and drink red wine on the patio of the house on the wrong side of the hill while our pups play!

Just a few of my dog friends and our Sat. morning hiking group.

Just a few of my dog friends and our Saturday morning hiking group. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

I understand that my friends with kids have seen their lives change with their growing families. The thing is, mine has, too.

What is different about your life now that you are a pet parent? Share your experiences in the comments!

Read more about Wendy’s life with Riggins:

About the author: Wendy Newell is a former VP of Sales turned Grade A Dog Sitter. After years of stress, she decided to leave the world of “always be closing” to one of tail wags and licks. Wendy’s new career keeps her busy hiking, being a dog chauffeur, picking up poo, sacrificing her bed, and other fur-filled activities. Wendy and her dog, Riggins, take their always-changing pack of pups on adventures throughout the Los Angeles area, where they live together in a cozy, happy home. You can learn more about Wendy, Riggins, and their adventures on Facebook and Instagram.