We searched on Petfinder and put in more applications for dogs than I had for medical schools. We wanted to find a small, older dog that might need a quieter home without other pets or children. As first-time pet owners, we did not hear back until a local rescue organization posted Archie. He was gray, and looked like the right amount of grouchy. We met Archie in a PetSmart in Dundalk, two days after he had had 11 teeth pulled and his fur cut back from his mouth for the surgery. He came home with us the next night, and he has claimed our couch and at least a third of the bed as his ever since.
This was February 2020, and what I could not have realized was that Archie would make us better citizens of Baltimore and better neighbors just when the city had to shut its doors.
On walks, we met our neighbors Charlie, Coco, Leo, Dexter and Murphy. And of course, Charlie’s dad, Coco’s mom, Leo’s mom, Dexter’s dad and Murphy’s parents. I don’t know any of the humans’ real names, professions or hobbies. If they have human children, I have not met them. Instead, we talk about Coco’s new puffy coat when the temperature dips below freezing and Charlie’s recent trip to the vet. We exchange recommendations for dog walkers and dog toothpastes.
Although we had lived in the city for two years, Archie introduced us to our neighborhood through four walks a day.
His journey has led us on a tour of Baltimore. When we were looking for a dog just like him, we visited BARCS and ASPCA. We saw the city’s dedication to the care of its animals. While we waited to sign in at BARCS, a man in a suit came in carrying a dog he had found on his drive to work. He probably had missed whatever morning meeting required the tie, but he took the time to sweet-talk the scared dog into his car so BARCS could help find a new home.
On our way to Dundalk to meet Archie, we drove past Johns Hopkins Bayview, where I would do my clinical rotations. We took him walking around Lake Roland, near where I would do research in the medical archives. When the paths were too muddy, we walked the undergraduate campus, where Archie could reassure the students homesick for their own pets. We watched the Baltimore marathon because there is nothing this dog loves more than people running toward him who might have treats. Alas, most runners did not carry treats on their 26.2-mile trek. He took part in the Fells Point Fun Festival pet parade and trotted like he was the city’s mayor.
While medical training can mean your geography changes every four to seven years, Baltimore will always be where Archie made the city home.
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