When I moved to Cambridge almost twenty years ago, I made friends through my children. Once the three of them were in school and I went back to work, I made friends at the office. Now, unemployed and with my kids mostly grown, I’m making friends through my puppy.
Since bringing Eddie home in June, I’ve become better acquainted with several of my dog-owning neighbors; I’m on a dog’s-first-name-basis with a raft of the dog-walking regulars at Fresh Pond; and I’ve deepened a pre-existing friendship with the mother of Eddie’s sister. Most felicitous, Eddie and I each met a kindred spirit at puppy kindergarten. Eddie and Boomer became fast friends in class, and Boomer’s mother and I have since bonded on frequent walks with our boys, who share an enthusiasm for sticks, mud puddles and rough and tumble romps, along with the same birthday. Thank you, Eddie, for serving as my calling card to a newly expanded social circle.
With all our fun new IRL (in real life) friends, Eddie and I don’t need to troll online networks for more social interaction, but in an idle moment I googled my way to the “Cambridge Area — Little White Fluffy Dog” group on Meetup.com.
I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised that such a group exists, or that it currently counts 79 members. In fact, there are over a thousand Meetup groups within five miles of Cambridge, catering to an eclectic range of interests, activities and causes. Have a hankering for shabu hot pot and karoke? Thirty-seven members of the Greater Boston Asian Professionals Group have registered to attend such a gathering tonight in Allston. Hurry, only three spots remain! In the dog sector alone, there are local Meetup groups for owners of Dachshunds (673 members), Chihuahuas (449), French Bulldogs (227), Jack Russell Terriers (170), Puggles (156), Little Yorkies (134, and isn’t “little” redundant?), Big Dogs (64) and Black Rescue Dogs (21). Who knew?!
Eddie and I attended our first LWFD meetup this morning with about ten others at Danehy Park in Cambridge. (The LWFD group has met 25 times since it started in December 2009.) Eddie was the only puppy and, at just under 20 pounds, the largest and most rambunctious of the lot. He spent the better part of an hour harassing Marcus, a sprightly Havanese accompanied by Carol, one of the LWFD group’s co-organizers. The weather was blustery, and Marcus was sporting a nifty blue coat. Eddie seemed to think that undressing Marcus was the object of their game. (As a springtime pup with a long – dare I say, fluffy? – natural coat, Eddie has no firsthand experience with canine fashion attire, apart from the humiliating cone-hat he had to wear after he was neutered.) After a while, Marcus lost patience with Eddie’s antics and retreated to the safety of a bench. The other dogs mingled happily, but the whitest and fluffiest of the attendees, a freshly-coiffed miniature Poodle in a stylish red coat, wanted nothing to do with anyone and left early.
I was relieved to see that the LWFD group is not as exclusive as its name implies – everyone enthusiastically welcomed a toffee-colored Cavalier King Charles named Rufus. Wait, aren’t dogs supposed to be colorblind anyway? In a place as progressive as Cambridge, shouldn’t we allow the dogs to self-identify and join whatever affinity group they wish? How about meetups for “Dogs Who Prefer Sticks to Balls,” or “Dogs Trying to Quit Chasing Runners” or “Dogs Whose Owners Drive Under the Influence of Adele”? (The last one is for bestselling author Laura Zigman of Newton and her dog Friday. Watch Laura’s hilarious video below, and you’ll understand.) The possibilities are endless, and the amazing thing about Meetup.com is that groups like these probably already exist somewhere!