Editor’s note: This article originally ran on Medium, but Amy kindly agreed to let us rerun it here for Dogster readers to enjoy.
For a woman, walking down city streets is different than for a man. All sorts of men — all ages, races, whatever — think it’s okay to catcall, tell me I have a nice ass, ask what I’m doing tonight (if you know what they mean, wink wink). But walking down city streets with a Siberian Husky at the end of a leash? A whole other experience.
There’s a small park near my house where I take my Lumi (her name is Finnish for “snow”) on walks when she and I are both home for the day. She loves these walks because she always gets to say hi to another dog or two, and the park has squirrels. SQUIRRELS! Very exciting stuff.
Something I notice on these walks, however, is how often men I don’t know stop to talk to me, and barely look me in the eye. They’re too busy looking at Lumi’s eyes. And fur. And tail. And wolf-like exterior.
I admit that at first it felt a bit odd. I couldn’t quite place why it did. But as it happened more and more often, I realized it was that I felt totally comfortable. It was when some guy wearing a hoodie and with a tattoo on his forehead got out of his car next to me and said, “Shit! That’s a good-lookin’ dog.”
I smiled and thanked him.
In other circumstances, I’ve felt utterly uncomfortable when some guy’s said, “Shit! That’s a nice ass!” The phrasing was so close, but the object of admiration was my dog, and not me. It was not only comfortable, but almost empowering. With my dog at the end of a leash, I can talk to anyone on the streets as a person, not as an object.
“Is that a Husky?” they inevitably ask, almost breathlessly. “My cousin/friend/father/barber’s sister’s daughter’s teacher’s babysitter had one and I’ve always loved those dogs.”
Though some women stop and ask, it’s mostly men who do. Maybe there are more men walking in my neighborhood. Or maybe men are just more likely to stop and talk to a stranger walking a lupine dog. Some people see her size and wolfish face and take a wide berth.
Those who do stop, ask all sorts of questions: whether she’s a boy or girl (girl), how old (little more than a year), how much bigger she’ll get (not much, if at all), how much she weighs (40-45 pounds), what she’s like (feisty and lively and sweet) and lots of other things.
The whole time, all their attention is focused on the dog. Once in a while, they glance at me, to show they’re paying attention to what I’m saying, but basically, I might as well be genderless. I am merely an extension of Lumi; not a separate person, not a woman, not a man. Just a dog owner.
It’s a strange experience, walking my Husky. People slow down as they drive past me, and I catch their gazes, pointed squarely in Lumi’s direction. Some call out the windows of their cars, “Beautiful dog!”
I much prefer these to the usual catcalls. Are these dog calls?
Lumi, I might add, doesn’t mind. Her reaction is in stark contrast to my usual feeling of uncomfortable awareness when I’m on the receiving end of unsolicited attention. Lumi is too busy sniffing the ground to figure out what other dogs have been by and what messages they may have left.
I bet few of them get the attention she does.
About the author: A 20-year veteran of newspaper journalism and top female submitter of all time on the late Digg.com, Amy Vernon is sought-after for advice on how to navigate the social web. Amy has consulted for a wide variety of clients, ranging from tech startups to international media organizations, on how to harness their community, develop shareable content and put in place best practices in their digital strategy. Amy has blogged for many sites, including VentureBeat, The Next Web, Network World, and Discovery.com’s Parentables and has driven literally millions of page views through her work. She is the mother of two sons and proud owner of a Siberian Husky and lives in New Jersey.