My husband and I have been consistently walking a dog 3-5 times a day for the past seven years. As every dog owner knows, dog walking can be both refreshing and painfully monotonous. Every day I pause before heading out, wishing that there were a new route we could take with new living rooms to stare into from the street. We know the daily habits of all our neighbors and can calculate the best streets to avoid any and all small talk. If I have forgotten a baggie, I pretend to pick up dog poo with the flourish and skill of a seasoned improviser. I know every trash can intimately. I have listened to every podcast that has ever been recorded.
There are bound to be hiccups. One morning in Los Angeles, I locked myself out of the apartment while my husband, the only other person in the world with another key, was over 25 miles away in rush hour traffic (surface street rush hour traffic). What was intended to be a quick pee-pee before work turned into a 2.5 hour sojourn through the Hollywood Hills in a pencil skirt and a blazer. It could have been worse, but it could have been much, much better.
In Nashville, we had a lovely little house that was conveniently situated alongside railroad tracks. I treated this secluded little chunk of railroad heaven as an extension of my own home… where no one could see me and pants were optional. Every day, especially during the housetraining days, I would stumble into the front lawn in some variation of undergarments and a raincoat. One day while crouching over to pick up dog shit, Banjo the puppy took off running, dragging his leash behind him. I had no choice but to run after him. He was fine, but I could have been better prepared.
Now we live in Washington, DC in an apartment building, with a baby. I don’t take silly risks any more when it comes to taking the dog for a walk. However, we currently face a dilemma that is specific to urban-dwelling, dog-owning parents who do not have a backyard and would rather die than befriend a hallway neighbor: What do you do when your partner is out of town and you need to take the dog out for a quick, late night pee break?
This is a rare occurrence for me, but I must admit that I just take the dog out very quickly while the baby snoozes. The other option is to wake the baby, place her in her stroller, take her outside, and then put her back to sleep. This is actually less of an “option” and more of a thing that would never, ever happen under any circumstance. Even fire.
I have this conversation often with friends who are in the same situation and we all seem to agree: The issue is not that something is going to happen to the baby while we’re gone (even if the baby cried, she would go ignored), but something will happen to us. Freak accidents happen, and there’s no one on Earth like a new mother who has the ability to catalog every single unthinkable atrocity in a single breath.
If I had to do this every single night, yes. I would probably find a friendly neighbor who could hold down the fort while I walked the dog. I also know people who will set up FaceTime with grandparents so that adoring eyes never leave the video baby monitor. But since this only happens in my home a handful of times a year, here’s what I do.
- Put on clothes, including shoes and pants. I even put on an extra pair of pants because we’re not in Nashville any more!
- Leash up the dog and give him a pep talk about how this walk is going to be different because we have a baby now.
- Send a group text to husband and friends: “I am about to take the dog out for a quick walk while Valerie sleeps. I will text you all when I return safely. If you do not hear from me in five minutes, please let a local person know that there’s a sleeping baby in our apartment. Also tell them that I’ve left my glass of wine in the freezer and that it should be removed immediately because last time I forgot about it and there were glass shards in the ice maker.”
- Stick keys into my eyeball so that I won’t forget them nor drop them down the elevator shaft. Yes, the doorman has an extra set, but you can never be too careful.
- Take iPhone, which is already sutured to my palm.
- [This one is important] Make sure the doorman on duty acknowledges my presence on the way out. They all know me because I consistently narc on all my neighbors who barbecue on their balconies (and I’m the one putting my child in danger?!). I’ll give a big wave, make small talk, and subtlety slip them one of my engagement portraits – the one they’ll surely use on the local news segment that chronicles my demise.
- Take dog to favorite tree five feet from main entrance and tell him to pee-pee like he’s never pee-peed before.
- Take elevator back to my floor, pull key out of eye socket.
- Forget to text anyone that I’ve returned safely.
- Go to sleep.
- Wake up to shattered wine glass in freezer.
I get it. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best I can do. If you still think this is too risky, here’s a name you should know: Mukesh Ambani. He’s the richest man in India and he lives in the world’s first Billion-dollar home: a 27-story jaw-dropper right smack in the middle of Mumbai. (Here’s the Vanity Fair spread with all the important details.) So, what’s the difference between me stepping outside my measly 10-story building and him descending 27 floors to let his dog pee-pee on his “front lawn” while his kids sleep? (Who am I kidding. A man that rich probably has two dogs.)
I hope this visual will help put things in perspective. And, as always, please don’t judge.
That’s my confession. Any other tricks out there for walking the dog while the baby sleeps? Not get a dog at all? That sounds great!