Friday, May 06, 2005 | I think we may be using our dog to make friends. He’s like the hot friend single people use to lure attractive mates. When he gets asked to a friend’s house for a play date, we’re psyched about the possibilities, thinking maybe we’ll sit around the yard drinking margaritas.

Unfortunately, in married life as in dating, would-be suitors often stay focused on the hot friend. And sometimes they don’t even want to hang out as a group; they just want your dog.

In this case that’s a 42-pound Australian Shepherd mix named Charlie. He’s the light of our lives, the apple of our eyes, the poop in our poop bags. And he’s not hard on the eyes either, if you know what I mean.

Charlie is black and white with a thick, shiny coat and penetrating brown eyes. The skin on his snout, just under a dusting of white fur, is an adorable shade of pink that I would buy if it came packaged as makeup. His good looks get us a lot of attention around the neighborhood.

One time a man stopped his car and rolled down the window, making me wary and annoyed that I was about to be whistled at or, worse, kidnapped by a sexual predator. Turns out the man was interested in Charlie, not me. “That’s a great looking dog,” he said and moved on. Huh? Should I be offended?

The correct answer is no, but I have to admit to being a little jealous at the ease with which Charlie makes friends. Not a dog goes by that Charlie doesn’t greet with a quick pounce, sniff and invitation to wrestle. He wouldn’t hesitate to invite all these dogs over for an impromptu party if he knew how to give directions.

Why can’t it be this easy for people? Would it be strange if we walked over to strangers in the neighborhood and introduced ourselves, or, horror, invited them over for a barbeque? How do people who are new to a neighborhood make friends with their neighbors?

Seriously, I’d really like to know. If you’re someone’s neighbor, do you know them? Do you hang out with them? Do you want to? In single life there are differing opinions as to how long you should wait to call once you’ve gotten someone’s telephone number. But when you’re married and living in the suburbs, how many hellos and neighborly nods do you have to exchange before you can ask someone to come over?

Catherine MacRae Hockmuth is a 32-year old freelance writer in Chula Vista, where she lives with her husband Bill and dog Charlie. Catherine and Bill, who met and married in Washington, D.C., moved to San Diego for the weather in July 2003. She can be reached at

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