Being streetwise and polite with cute dogs and babies

dog on the streetIn general, when you see an attractive person walking down the street, it’s not normally considered polite to stare at them, or even to tell them how handsome or pretty you think he or she may be.

But what, dear readers, is the etiquette for dogs and babies?

In a walkable neighborhood like Lakeview over the summer, I often find myself passing by cute dogs and/or babies. And because Lakeview is home to so many apartment complexes that regulate the types of dogs renters can own by weight, many of the dogs in the neighborhood are tiny and ADORABLE. My maternal instinct is kicking in and is yelling at me: “Lia, there’s a little dog coming down the street! Make sure to say hi!” Or “Lia, look at that young couple pushing a stroller … maybe the baby inside is wearing a hoodie with ANIMAL EARS!”

Alright. I don’t really want the dog to lick me or jump on me, but I sort of do want to stare at it for a few seconds longer than is generally considered socially acceptable to stare at strangers. And for babies — I don’t need a whole conversation about what college she’s hoping to attend, but if she has chubby cheeks, I’d take a glance.

So if I am going to give that dog or baby that extra glance, my question is: What, if any, contact do I have to make with the dog/baby’s owner?

Though I wrote a few months ago about how I should start talking to my neighbors in the elevator, it’s something that’s still been a challenge for me. In an ideal world, I would just talk to the dog or baby and not have to think about a conversation topic with the adult. The beauty of the situation? Both dogs and babies are good at staring contests.

dog with sweaterThe problem is that I don’t actually know anything about dogs or babies. If I saw someone carrying a pizza I wanted to stare at, I could think of lots of ways to make conversation. What kind of pizza is that? Where did you get it? Do you like thin crust or deep dish? Don’t you think cracker crust pizzas are just not even worth eating? What’s your favorite pizza topping? If you had to choose a type of pizza to eat other than Chicago-style pizza, which would you pick?

But for dogs and babies, I get stuck after “Oh my, that dog/baby is so cute.”

Clifford the Big Red DogWhat kind of dog is that? Any response to that question will not be words in my vocabulary unless it’s something like “a short red curly dog.”

Where did you get that baby? Uhhhh…

Don’t you miss being able to be gone all day without having to let the dog out? The neighbors think I’m so charming.

What’s your dog’s favorite book to read? Obviously it’s “Clifford the Big Red Dog.”

Speaking of which, do you chuckle and sing to yourself every time you wonder who it was that let the dog out? If you don’t do this, you are no friend of mine.

So, friends, any light you can shed on what I should about talking to owners when all I want is six seconds of cuteness from a dog or a baby, please leave me a comment. If not, I will keep going around and asking babies if they think their teddy bear hoodie comes in giraffe.

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