Without exactly meaning to, I entered my 30s living by the adage “no new friends.” I was content with my small (but loyal) circle of siblings, cousins, and childhood friends — I love the legacy these decades-long connections carry. Besides, I just didn’t feel like I had the energy to start from scratch, to cultivate new bonds that could take years of effort and time to reach a fully-bloomed friendship. I didn’t have time for all of that. Or I didn’t think I did, anyway.
Then came Molly. This nine-week-old salt-and-pepper puppy came barreling into my life in the winter of 2018, during a period of upheaval: I was about two months into my first solo apartment and going through a painful breakup with one of my closest friends. In the midst of all this change and frustration came a helpless little creature who demanded and required all of my attention and energy.
Until adopting Molly, life in my little West Los Angeles neighborhood was quiet at best. I knew the names of a few people in my building, mainly from awkward run-ins at the mailbox or spontaneous bonding over the occasional power outage. But I had no close ties to anyone who lived nearby (where I’d lived, at that point, for nearly four years), and it wasn’t uncommon to walk by a neighbor without so much as a “hello.”
All of that changed on my first walk with Molly. I ventured around the block with my tiny, newly vaccinated bundle of fluff and was greeted by at least two fellow dog walkers within minutes. Emphatic welcomes of “Who’s this new baby?” and “Oh my goodness, we have a new puppy in the neighborhood!” came at us from all angles. I was bombarded with questions about my dog’s age, eating habits, adoption story, and sleeping methods (to crate or not to crate?). Despite having roamed this area for years, I felt like a brand new addition to the neighborhood.
Suddenly, I was “Molly’s mom,” exchanging numbers with people in the event I had any questions about puppy rearing or simply needed a walking buddy. Within a week I had made about five new friends. And, for once, I wasn’t mad about it.
None of these new connections felt awkward or obligatory. Instead, they felt natural — necessary, even. People who don’t have pets don’t tend to love talking about fur babies: After a minute or so of discussing Molly’s strict raw diet or passion for chasing squirrels, their eyes glaze over. I don’t blame them; they just can’t relate. But pets are family, and we treat them (and discuss them) as such. Having a circle of friends who understand that is so important.
This became especially true in 2020, when my social life went from bustling to non-existent. The novelty of hours-long show bingeing, baking, and at-home workouts lost its sparkle quickly. I found myself in some unhealthy patterns of behavior that involved excessive fast food delivery, little to no movement from my couch, and very low energy to do much else.
I confided in my neighbors and fellow dog-moms, Julie and Cheyenne, who I often went on early evening walks with. They suggested we gather up our pet parent contacts and get a standing walking crew going every day around 5:30 p.m. While the little club of humans and pups started off small (just Julie, Cheyenne, and me), it slowly grew, and the walk itself even evolved — to include wine. Every afternoon at 5:30 on the dot, we’d all leash up our pups and travel tumblers for what is now known as Sip and Stroll.
These little walks turned into patio dinners, dog park dates, and Sunday trips to the neighborhood coffee shop and bagel truck. As the world continues to slowly (and inconsistently) open up, we’ll watch each other’s dogs when someone goes out of town or into the office. We celebrate each other’s milestones like personal birthdays — as well as those of our pups, of course — work promotions, and personal triumphs.
We also commiserate on darker moments. Last year, I lost two beloved grandparents, and my puppy pod dropped by with donuts and coffee and flowers to ensure I was doing OK. And when one of our Sip and Stroll regulars underwent major knee surgery, we all took turns walking her pup and shopping for her groceries as she recovered.
Acquaintances are easy to come by as we get older, but I never thought I would form such close friendships as these. But this common ground of love for our pets has helped us find common ground in other areas of life as well, and allowed for true connection and trust to form.
Adopting Molly has transformed me and opened my heart in a multitude of ways, but I’ll forever be grateful for the people she’s allowed to come into my life. She truly is the very best wingman I could ever ask for.