Before I got a dog, I wondered how having one might change our home. Would he chew up the sofa? Would his dog beds, toys and food bowls overtake our living area? Would he disrupt my workday? None of these worries materialized in any significant way. Instead, he’s simply changed who and what I see throughout my day. A few days ago, another neighbor appeared in my backyard because her dog, Solly, has as much energy as my dog, and so the two frequently play. She asked me when I moved to the neighborhood. I’ve been here for 10 years. She’s been here 20. But we had never met, or even seen each other, until she adopted Solly last summer.

“The dog becomes something people are interested in and can become a fulcrum for knowing your community in different ways,” said Melissa Cooper, who for years kept a blog about the walks she took with her dog, Strider, after she moved back to Manhattan from Dallas in 2008. Strider (known as Esau in the blog) died in 2018, but Ms. Cooper still goes on the same walks, seeking out his favorite spots, like where the raccoons like to hide in Central Park. “Now I’m trained,” she said.

In her blog, aptly called “Out Walking the Dog,” Ms. Cooper often photographed the wildlife that she and Strider spotted, or the sunsets, or the way the ice would freeze on the rocks in Central Park. “If you’re serious about looking at wildlife, walking a dog is not the way to do it,” she said. But, if you want a companion to point out other creatures and heighten your senses, a dog certainly helps. “He opened up worlds for me,” Ms. Cooper said. “He would see things before I would. I’d learn how to see, how to listen, how to hear.”

He was also, apparently, an excellent rat hunter, with a knack for efficiently dispatching the rodents hidden beneath the trash bags on the sidewalks of her Morningside Heights neighborhood. “It’s incredible,” she said. “He could have cleaned up the whole neighborhood.”

Tanvi Misra, a journalist who writes frequently about migration and urban policy, had lived in the Shaw neighborhood in Washington, D.C. for two years by the time she adopted Ruth, a mutt, in 2020. Ruth, a rescue, had been living on a farm in Arkansas and was terrified of the bustling, loud streets of her new neighborhood. So Ms. Misra sought out the quiet alleys behind the rowhouses and schools.

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