Our house is almost exactly on the border between two very different neighbourhoods. One that is very new and very suburban, and one that is much older and – how to put this nicely – a little sketchy. Everything above a certain street, a street we live only five or six houses up from, is visually so much nicer than everything on the other side. It’s kind of the dividing line.
Given that I walk my dog over two hours a day, I spend a lot of time on both sides. My practically husband doesn’t always like it when I travel around on the “other side” but I never worry. When we lived in Calgary we also lived in a reputedly bad part of town and I never had trouble. Not even when walking home late at night from the train station. Maybe it’s naïve, but I believe most criminals keep to themselves. If I leave them alone, they will leave me alone. Since I am not comfortable chatting with strangers anyway, I feel secure enough to go on my way.
Now that I have a dog, I worry even less. Shiva may not be a giant rottweiler but she appears just strong enough, just crazy enough, that most people won’t want to risk setting her off. And if I get a bad feeling about someone, you can bet I won’t stop her from her bark and lunge routine. Shiva also has a very loud bark. Given this neighbourhood has such a poor reputation, there is always a police vehicle only a few blocks away. I doubt any would be attacker would be dumb enough to mess with my dog. Furthermore, I only ever walk in this area in the very early morning, when the coke-heads are crashing after a long night. Or, in the early evening, when the crazies with knives have left their apartments in search of trouble elsewhere.
What I think is interesting, is that I have had more problems while walking in the nicer neighbourhoods. On the better part of town, people like to talk to me. They are always coming up to us, wanting to pet Shiva, wanting to ask questions. They tend to have dogs of their own, frequently off-leash, that they feel have a right to say hello to my dog. They have less respect for my boundaries. More importantly, they have less respect for my dog’s boundaries. If she barks, they give me the stink-eye and act like I have a vicious monster at the end of my leash.
In the neighbourhood with the negative stereotypes, where there have been too many murders already this year, people leave us alone. There are less people walking dogs. And when they are, they remain in their own space and are always on a leash. They don’t expect my dog to say hello and if she barks they barely glance over. The people respect my boundaries. Even when we exchange pleasantries they continue on their way. They don’t expect me to drop everything to answer their questions.
Obviously I am generalizing, but it is something I have noticed. There is a lot going on here to be sure and there are a number of reasons these neighbourhoods have the reputations they do. I am not going to get into that here as it’s not what this blog is about. All I will say is that sometimes, I prefer it on the wrong side of the tracks.