An acquaintance of mine recently said to me that she was glad they had installed a new taller fence around their yard. They wanted more privacy from the neighbors, but she in particular felt that now she was free to play with their dog without feeling self-conscious. I felt both glad for her about the fence, but also sad that she cared so much that it had hampered her play heretofore. For me, one of the many lessons I've learned from our dogs is to let go of self-consciousness. Plus, of course, it helps to be getting older. There are a lot of things I just don't care about as much as when I was younger. This is not to say I'm not self-conscious in certain situations -- being shy, over-educated, and having been raised by parents who were class and cultural outsiders means that I am hyper-aware of myself when I have to deal with the extremely wealthy, or in spaces like suburbia.
But being with The Boss and Speedy frees me from all awkwardness, since they really don't care. They want only to spend time with me. We play elaborate games of "Chase Speedy with the ball" and "Boss's Tugfest" in our yard, with rules and conventions that have developed over time. If my neighbors see me running and playing, who cares? It actually has never even crossed my mind.
When walking with the dogs, I often carry on some running commentary or conversations with them about what we see, how they're acting, etc. Some of it is along the lines of "leave that dead bird alone" and some of it is more personal and nonsensical. I sing little madeup rhymes to them and just have fun. (I do realise that I might sound (might in fact be becoming) Crazy Dog Lady but I still would not share my toothbrush with either of our dogs, which is my personal benchmark for such things. (Based on someone I once knew.))
Yesterday morning, we were out on a walk a bit earlier than usual. Because of the presence of schoolchildren (and the alarming crossing guards who make Speedy anxious) we walked a slightly different route than we customarily do. I was happily singing a little spring song to them as we turned the corner by the Catholic church. And there was a guy in a monk's outfit in a little meditation garden facing the street. I'm no expert in Church garb, but this sure seemed like traditional brown monk type robes I'd expect at the Renaissance Faire. He looked up coldly at me and I stopped singing. Then I nodded and said good morning, and kept walking.
And then, half a block further down the street, both Speedy and then The Boss decided to poop on the grass in front of the church's office building. I picked it up of course but couldn't help but feel like there was some judgment going on.