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A Dog and Social Distancing

I’m supposed to write about what social distancing in Montana means. When I came up with this idea, I thought I’d talk about skinning and skiing at Bridger or Hyalite, maybe hitting up some of your favorite cross-country ski trails, or wading out into a chilly river to cast a line. These are some of the things that make me feel incredibly fortunate to call Montana home. But, as I’ve been home the last several days, the thing that I’ve enjoyed most has been taking my dog, Duck, for walks.

Duck 1

Duck is a puppy, just about three months old. I got him from Stafford Animal Shelter in Livingston at the beginning of March while ski resorts were still operating, restaurants would still seat you, and we weren’t concerned about social distancing. Hanging out with Duck has been pretty great‒ he’s not worried about the economy, can’t understand the news, and has seen my staying home for the last several days as a huge plus. His main concerns are maximizing his belly rubs, covering my house in as much dog toy stuffing as possible, and this one magpie that doesn’t seem to understand that it is in Duck’s yard now.

Duck 5

I live in downtown Bozeman and take Duck for nice long walks; zig-zagging down Grand, over Alderson to 8th, around campus and back in the mornings, to Willson up to Babcock until Tracy or Bozeman in the afternoon around lunch, and another few blocks in the evening as we settle down for the night. It’s helped me keep my sanity, helped me get fresh air, and helped me bond with my puppy.

Bozeman may look different these days, but it is still alive on the side streets. People have been enjoying the sunny days on their porches and we’ve had nice chats as I walk by on the sidewalk. Plenty of people have been out walking with their loved ones, both human and canine alike, and crossed the road to avoid getting too close. It’s never come across as rude, I understand. If we pass along on the same sidewalk, Duck has a 6 foot leash which serves as a good way to ensure everyone keeps a safe distance. More often than not another nice conversation will unfold whether that’s from across the road or a leash length away. Something along the lines of:

-“Aww, hold old is your puppy?”

-“He’s just a few months.”

-“What kind of dog is he?”

-“Honestly, I have no idea. Some people think he’s got a good bit of shepherd in him, probably some lab, too.”

-“Well, he sure is cute.”

-“Thanks! Y’all have a good walk!”

-“Thanks, you too!”

Duck 3

I think it’s part of something we’re incredibly good at as Montanans and Americans. When we’re faced with adversity we rise above. Even when we need to stay distant we find ways to care for those close to us. I think that’s part of the brief hellos and exchanges I’ve had on my walks with Duck, maintaining a sense of community. Seeking out interaction and connectedness while we’re doing the responsible thing and staying home and keeping our distance. As I walk around our town, I feel closer to my neighbors.

Duck 4

If you see me and Duck feel free to stop me from your porch, across the road, or even from your car as you’re driving by. We’re not in a hurry and we’d love to share a little bit of our time with you.

Written by Stephen McNeal

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