Urban hound: What a dog taught me about city living

For years, my daily after-work stroll around the neighbourhood provoked a great desire to share life with a furry four-legged friend. Visits to the local park left me longing after other people’s pets. But the apartment block where I lived at the time boldly stated ‘no pets allowed’.

Fast forward a couple of years, post-apartment living. My daily walks are no longer solo, nor optional, as Frank, a wiry Welsh terrier has joined the city pack. Not only has his arrival meant getting up in the morning much earlier than I ever thought humanly possible; it has also given me a fresh pair of ‘dog’ eyes through which I experience the paths we take.

Our meanders have reminded me that an urban environment that caters for our furry and feathered friends is better for people too. Aside from the obvious infrastructure that supports safe journeys on foot and paw—level surfaces, wide pavements, adequate shade and shelter—it’s sometimes the more subtle gestures that guarantee memorable encounters with the everyday.

urban hound

My once hurried movements have slowed to let Frank collect the day’s offering of smells, the status updates of his social network. Our dawdling pace will often catch the attention of a neighbouring canine or feline acquaintance, resulting in either a quick hello or a more in depth getting-to-know-each-other session. Frank relishes any chance social encounter en route, with no discrimination whatsoever regarding shape, size or specimen. Old acquaintances and new faces are greeted with equal hospitality.

On the move again, storm water grids, roadside curbs and low-walled planters construct an agility course for jumping over, onto or even into. Lawn sprinklers transform any grassy patch into a water sport oasis, and overgrown foliage provides a sheltered pit stop whilst leg and willpower are recharged.

It’s a tough task to stray from the routine, and we’ve settled into a selection of routes that offer adequate distance (to tire out an active terrier), with a good dose of Cape Town scenery. Frank embarks on every walk with the same eagerness and enthusiasm as if he was exploring uncharted territory.

I wish I could tackle the ordinariness of the everyday with the same oomph and wonder. Luckily, every day is less mundane in the company of an urban hound.