Two weeks ago we said goodbye to our dumb little dog.
We are preparing to head back to Australia to live, and the quarantine regulations Down Under make it almost impossible to justify bringing her with us.
We inherited Chica from my daughter’s friend. A mixture of Chihuahua and Pomeranian, the little fur-ball had no idea how small she actually was.
A trip to the local dog park would often see her try to tackle a German Shepherd or St. Bernard. Fortunately the bigger dogs never really saw her as a threat, so didn’t respond to her rather comical aggression.
Chica quickly became part of the family. I don’t think I realized how much she was part of us until we said goodbye.
Twenty minutes after she had driven away with her new family, I looked out my living room window to see both my girls being hugged by our neighbours, fighting back tears as they shared the story of her departure. A few minutes later our neighbour Rhonda said to me, “Matt, the next time you write in the Gazette I want to see you mention dogs, because dogs build communities.”
Rhonda is right. Even dumb balls of fur that try to attack German Shepherds build community.
A 2014 study showed that dogs, and in particular dog parks, can be a real force for building bridges between people in any neighbourhood.
Our dogs get us out of our houses and onto the paths and parks of our beautiful city where we meet people we wouldn’t meet any other way. Dogs can be bridge builders between their humans.
Jesus called us to be bridge builders. He said we were to love our neighbours, and the research is clear, his instructions point the way towards a better life. If we simply did what Jesus said, we would be healthier, we would live in safer neighbourhoods, we would be wealthier and we would be more likely to be in a job we enjoy.
If the benefits are so clear, why do we avoid it? At least one big one is that it is tough to make that first connection. Sometimes we need a way to make that first step, and dogs can be that for us.
Of course it is not just dogs that build bridges. Kids build bridges. Gardening in the front yard can build bridges and so can simply going for a regular walk.
There is another important way to build bridges that St. Albert leads the world in: Block Parties.
The local churches have got behind the city’s initiative, and together with Neighbourhood Watch, we have established the Good Neighbour Project to encourage people to take the first step.
On the GoodNeighbourProject.org website you can sign up to coordinate a block party, indicate a willingness to help someone else on your street make a block party happen or simply say that you would be willing to attend a block party if someone else organized it.
Not everyone can have a dog, but we can all experiences the benefits of bridge building by being Good Neighbours.