I was living in Baltimore six years ago. I had moved there for what I thought would be a dream job. It probably would have been if the director there wasn't insane.
I lived in an row house apartment in the artsy region called Bolton Hill. My landlady was in her 80's and swore like a sailor. My neighbors came in the door and quickly retired behind closed doors. My coworkers - all 3 of us - were so exhausted by the chaos of the previously mentioned insane boss, that we rarely socialized at night.
I was lonely. I found too much solace inside my apartment and in books and on the radio. I went to a Unitarian church, but was too painfully shy to "turn left" in the minutes between the service and social hour, and always found myself in my car instead of talking to strangers. I took books and letter writing materials to coffee shops and the local brewery, thinking I could be the interesting stranger that someone would strike up conversation with. I went to a neighborhood wine party. Once.
I was lonely, but it was also during this time that I found how enjoyable alone time could be. I got to know a foreign city pretty well by myself. I stayed in touch with people from other parts and places in my life. I read and cooked and learned and listened to new music and made day trips in my new Ford Focus.
But through all of this exploration I wanted a buddy.
It took 2 months to find the right one. I was looking for someone who was mid-sized, brown, and not too fluffy. Animal shelters are full of BIG dogs. Big black lab or Rottweiler or I don't know what it is, but it's too big mixes. And prior to moving in my sweet landlady agreed to allow a dog in my lease, so long as I could carry it up the stairs. She lived next door and didn't want to hear nails on the wood steps.
So, two months on the hunt, and one visit to the SPCA there he was. A small dog, standing near the front of his cage looking friendly, but worried. He was healthy, and one and housebroken, according to his profile. "I'd like to spend some time with this one," I told the volunteer. He ushered us to a play room. I sat on the floor and "Baby" (as they called him) smelled my hand. Soon he stood next to me. A few pats later he was on my lap staring into my eyes. We were in love.
A few days later, we were leaving the shelter. He was nervous and threw up (in my new car). The war was recent and I was listening to Arlo Gutherie on the radio. I couldn't call my dog baby, and was tossing out names. He vomited at the suggestion of Ernie (after Mr. Harwell). But when I said "Arlo?" he glanced at me with interest.
Days later I had to fly home for Lisa and Ken's wedding. Arlo stayed with an intern of mine. She ended up keeping him longer when the storm of the year came and Baltimore airport was snowed in.
Arlo and I have been together 6 years today. He changed the way I experienced Baltimore. I was still reading and listening to NPR and walking the neighborhood to fill my days, but I had another breathing being with me. Happy Anniversary, Arlo.