Tag Archives: Elgin

What Elgin Can Learn from… Detroit?

This quarter, my Economics class is reading and discussing Spend Shift, a fascinating look at how the economic recession is pushing Americans back to more traditional values and, as a result, shifting how and what we buy.

Each chapter features a case study of how a city is experiencing a shift in these values. One of the chapters, “The New American Frontier: Detroit,” had me nodding vigorously and thinking, “Yes! Absolutely!” while also wondering, “Detroit? Really? Detroit-Detroit?”

In a sweet little twist of irony, I was reading that particular chapter while sipping coffee at downtown Elgin’s Domani Cafe, where I often go for Saturday studying. (Try the Cuban sandwich. Trust me.) Downtown Elgin has suffered some of the same challenges as Detroit, though on a much smaller scale. The manufacturing base that was so strong a century ago has fled – the watch factory and its supporting industries employed thousands, as did the dairy industry. Crime was a very real problem in the downtown through the 80s and 90s. Property values dropped (and are doing so again, though not quite to Detroit’s level, where the median home price is $8,000 and the Silverdome recently sold for a mere $583,000.)

When I first moved here in 2006, many still knew Elgin by its old reputation and asked if I was crazy. But I saw a great town with more character than most of the commuter suburbs, and an opportunity to really make a home.

A handful of brave entrepreneurs have also seen opportunity over the past several years and moved into the downtown core, taking advantage of low rents. More recently, the Downtown Neighborhood Association and the city have been working to help promote this migration. Not all the fledgling businesses have made it – several years of streetscaping construction have made it difficult for potential customers to navigate and park – but things are looking up.

In Detroit, entrepreneurs aren’t afraid to try new things, because the cost of failure is relatively low. With very low overhead and building owners desperate for tenants, businesses can afford to experiment a bit and be creative in their efforts. Spend Shift talks at length with the owners of a French bistro, an art gallery, and a creperie – all of whom took risks that have paid off. The business owners are united for a stronger city, and in early 2010, they drafted what they called “The Detroit Declaration,” a set of twelve principles that is to guide their future. This movement continues to gain momentum, and a related Facebook page has nearly 14,000 fans who actively discuss many of the city’s issues.

Several of the delcaration’s tenants could be taken to heart by Elginites who want to improve our fair city. Here are a few that seemed most relevant to me, with my take on how they apply. (View the full thing.)

Preserve our authenticity – “Celebrate and elevate” Elgin’s unique qualities, like our river, our location, our parks. How many cities our size have a zoo, an opera, a world-class symphony and an award-winning library? Sometimes, when certain proposals come up, naysayers moan, “We’re not Naperville/Geneva/Chicago.” And we’re not. It’s time to stop trying to be something we’re not and celebrate who we are.

Diversify our economy – For decades, Elgin relied on a couple big industries – namely watch-making and dairy. When they went bust, so, too, did our city’s employment rate. While the city is making strides at this with new industries (Siemens, Wanxiang, etc), they should do more to promote the smaller businesses that actually create jobs, rather than existing companies that merely import jobs. Groups like the non-profit, grass-roots Elgin Technology Center have a lot of potential to incubate these small businesses and build connections among them to help them succeed. Giving incentives to multi-national companies who have already signed leases to move here only make us more dependent on large companies, which is never ideal. If the city must spend money on incentives, invest in smaller, innovative businesses who have room and ideas to grow. A little bit of money can go a long way with start-ups, rather than hundreds of thousands of dollars to multi-nationals.

Enhance quality of place and Demand transportation alternatives – Detroiters define this as “a comprehensive vision for transit-linked, high-quality, walkable urban centers,” which is good, and valid for Elgin’s downtown core. But connecting the other parts of Elgin to the downtown core – via bike paths and other links – are just as important, as big portions of the population live within 5-10 miles of downtown proper. Currently, they spend their dollars along Randall Road, often out of city limits. I occasionally run into lifelong Elginites who haven’t been downtown in years and have no idea what has developed there.

Prioritize education, pre-K through 12 and beyond – We must do something about U46, as it is the biggest detractor for many potential residents. People with children want to live in areas with good schools, where their tax dollars fund a solid public education. They don’t want to have to pay private school tuition on top of their taxes – of which U46 comprises the largest share. Whether or not the current reputation is deserved is another issue. But regardless, we must demonstrate that education is vital to this town – and then prove it. We have two higher education institutions – ECC and Judson University – an advantage few other towns can boast. Let’s leverage them.

Demand government accountability – Especially during  a recession when many have lost jobs, are underemployed, have seen pay cuts, etc, we become more concerned with how our tax dollars are being spent. We’ve all tightened our belts – shouldn’t government do the same? Elgin is making some cautious steps towards this. I’m holding my breath until the Budget Task Force is announced – who will they pick from the 57 applicants? – and to see how wide they open the books. We can hope their recommendations are truly in the taxpayer interest and that the Council enacts reforms. Meanwhile, groups like Elgin OCTAVE show promise for being good, necessary watchdogs that can ask tough, necessary questions of our spending habits.

Think regionally and leverage our geography – We’re just 35 minutes from O’Hare – and the opposite direction of the worst of the traffic. Chicago is less than 40 miles away, and we have a relatively reliable train link to Union Station. We’re halfway between Chicago and Rockford, with a huge pool of available workers. If we play our cards right, we can draw from a huge metropolitan population. I’ve heard the city make similar claims, but I don’t think we can do too much of this.

What do you think? Do we need an Elgin Manifesto of sorts to rally around? Or are we already on this path? Does this resonate with you – or am I completely off base?

Signs of Spring

Friday’s post sparked a Facebook discussion about the role of signs in elections.

They’re often the first sign of a coming election, sprouting up like dandelions from still-frozen ground. Usually patriotic blue or red, with festive stars, but the last few years, you’ll see attention-grabbing green, purple and yellow.

But how effective are they? Do signs influence elections? They must, or candidates wouldn’t allocate precious campaign dollars towards them.

The irony of the library board situation I mentioned Friday is that this slate of candidates has plastered their green and white signs all over town, including in tree banks and on public right-of-ways where they’re technically verboten. Yet, the same trio hasn’t bothered to attend candidate forums or answer questionnaires about their positions.

Note the three green and white signs within about 100 feet. And there were additional signs around the corner of this busy west-side intersection

While out for a long, slow, cold 7 miler Sunday, I was mulling over the sign conundrum. I started counting the green and white slate signs, losing count when I hit 20. They were often clustered together with other candidates, and seemed to be sprinkled heavily at major intersections.

Also interesting to observe were how the different signs were paired. Officially, our municipal elections are non-partisan. We get to pick three council members out of ten candidates, and one mayor from two candidates. Several alliances have sprung up, some formal, most informal, and this is sometimes reflected by how the signs are grouped.

But not always.

And how do the signs end up so strategically placed? The times I’ve hosted a sign in my yard (including my current Curtin for Council sign), I’ve always asked for it. But I’ve heard numerous anecdotes of signs magically appearing overnight, or disappearing, as the case may be. This seems particularly prevalent on highly visible blocks.

Do residents know who these candidates are when signs appear on their yard? Do they just not bother to remove them? Are they inspired to go look up information on the candidate in question? Do they know that the candidates on their sign refuse to answer questions?

While running Sunday, I paused a couple times to take pictures. I couldn’t get a good, non-glared shot of the biggest sign farm I saw along McLean, where at least a dozen signs clustered in a vacant lot, competing for attention.

I wonder how long these signs will stick around after the election. Both Keith Farnham and Michael Noland were elected in November, and yet their signs remain all over town.

Do signs influence your political choices? Would you ever vote for someone just because you see their signs all over the place and think, “Hey, they must be popular/good/wealthy if they have so many signs”? Or do you use signs to become aware of which candidates are running, and do your research from there?

Showing Up: A Sign of Respect

Elgin will hold municipal elections on April 5. Like the political nerd I am, I’ve spent part of my spring break going to candidate forums. You can read all the profiles you want, but there’s something about hearing candidates answer questions live, without hours to carefully choose written words, that shows their true character and intentions.

Last night’s forum was held at the Gail Borden Library, which is a phenomenal asset to our town. The forum was for mayoral and library board candidates.

Typically, it’s these smallest elections – for library boards, school boards, park districts, etc – that get overlooked. Even politically engaged citizens who do their homework on the marquee races (mayor and city council, in this case) often shrug and close their eyes when they get to that part of the ballot.

But they’re just as important as the higher profile positions. In this case, the library board manages taxpayer dollars and sets the direction of the library. Given how much I get out of the library, it’s a part of my tax bill I’m happy to pay – but I want to know that those dollars are being spent wisely. And one of the current board members – elected the last time around with the usual amount of voter indifference – has proved to be an obstacle to progress, demonstrating just how important it is to choose our board wisely.

Given this history, I really wanted to hear from the library candidates. Essentially, two “slates” have formed among the nine candidates running for five seats. I was curious to hear the differences between the slates, as politicians often try to cater towards voters by not taking any position that could be remotely controversial. (I believe all candidates last night agreed that they do indeed like books.)

But three of the candidates didn’t bother to show up last night.

One of the “slates,” consisting of Victor LaPorte, Richard Wallett and Penny Wegman, skipped the forum entirely. (They’re the trio on the green signs around town.)

While this made for a rather amicable forum, it wasn’t fair to voters, though it certainly made my decision easier.

By not bothering to show up at the only forum for library candidates, co-hosted by the library itself, Wegman, LaPorte and Wallett showed they don’t respect voters, the process or the library.

If elected, would they bother showing up at meetings? Would they bother listening to constituents?

Let’s not find out. But do show up at the polls.

Note: After this post inspired the comments below and a Facebook discussion, I wrote a follow-up post on the role of signs in an election.

Communities IRL

When today’s #reverb10 prompt appeared, I thought, “Hey, I wrote this one already!”

And indeed, in September, I wrote about my experience in Finding Community in Elgin, a completely enthralling, exciting development.

But re-reading the prompt (Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?), I realized that there’s another aspect I completely overlooked.

2010 was truly a social media – and specifically, Twitter – year for me. And while Twitter is indeed part of my job, I’ve started taking the community-building lessons I’ve learned at work and applying them to – gasp – real life.

I joined Twitter groups of Chicago-area runners, and that lead me to DailyMile, a Facebook-like site specifically for athletes. From DailyMile, I’ve made new friends, some of whom I’ve actually met IRL (in real life). It’s such an encouraging, inspiring group that I doubt I would be running at the level I am now without this community.

I also connected with several other Chicago-area marketing people, some of whom turned out to live very near me. And again, meeting them IRL at various events has been enriching, with new ideas and perspectives galore that go well beyond 140 characters.

So that’s my goal for 2011 – continue to take these fantastic Twitter/DailyMile/LinkedIn/other relationships beyond the platform that created them. Because while a virtual community is cool, it can’t beat real life.

This post is part of #Reverb10, a month-long project to reflect on the year nearly gone. Read all my #Reverb10 posts, or learn more.

A New Tradition: Trotting for Turkey

A year ago, I didn’t know that thousands of people wake up early on Thanksgiving morning and run in the cold.  It’s a day designed for sleeping in, unless you’re the one stuck with turkey duty.

But by September of this year, I had heard of the Turkey Trot phenomenon, and  it became a matter of choosing which one to tackle.

Then I learned that the Gifford Park Association, another Elgin neighborhood group, was hosting its first-ever Thanks a Lot Turkey Trot 5k, and my choice was easy.

The forecast began mentioning ominous words like “ice pellets” and “sleet,” but since a couple friends were committed, I was too. I went to the outlet mall yesterday with my parents, and managed to convince them to let me have one of my Christmas presents early. My new waterproof, breathable jacket should carry me through the winter, and today was the first test.

When I woke up, it was still dark, and everything was wet from a steady mist. But at least it was above freezing at 38 degrees. By the time my dear friend Sarah picked me up, the mist had stopped and the wind was picking up. My long sleeve Pumpkin Run shirt paired with my new jacket kept me plenty warm – the wind couldn’t cut through at all, and I actually unzipped the vents about mid-way through the race.

A small crowd assembled in the park, bringing canned goods for the local food pantry. The atmosphere was very laid back, unlike any other race I’ve done. I think a lot of it was the size of the crowd – there were maybe 50 participants? {Ed note: The Courier-News reported there were 111 participants – apparently my crowd estimating abilities need some work)- and the absence of many of the traditional race trappings. There were no bibs or chips, no timing mat, not even an official clock. Instead, as everyone assembled, the fantastic organizer Amanda read off a series of announcements, including something about a problem with a clock, so there was just a guy with a stopwatch.

But for a gloomy, damp holiday morning, the atmosphere felt exactly right. We took off and, without a crowd to keep my pace in check, I started way too fast. I looked down after a quarter mile and was running a 7:40 mile. Whoa, Nelly! I slowed to a brisk-but-comfortable 9:30 pace and enjoyed the course.

I’ll admit I was wary of a course that was two laps – I didn’t want to get lapped! – but the crowd was thin enough it was never an issue. I love the Gifford Park neighborhood (the oldest in Elgin, chock full of interesting, historic homes) and running through it provided an entirely new perspective. We trotted – that’s really the right word – past Channing School and up the steep but mercifully short hill, then around Channing Park and back down the hill and through the center of Gifford Park to began the second lap.

There were an abundance of water stops – essentially three along the way, counting the conveniently placed start/finish line stop at the midpoint – and the volunteers were at every turn so the turns were very clear.

I finished in 29:18, which isn’t great – my 5k PR stands at 28:12 on a very flat course – but given the mood and atmosphere, I was perfectly fine with it. Rather than awards for quickest finishers, those who brought the most canned goods took home prizes, which seemed fitting.

After I finished and grabbed water, I strolled back through the park cheer on everyone else coming in. It was Sarah’s very first 5k, so when I saw her I really cheered, and she joined me to cheer on Cassie a minute later. Post race refreshments included (nearly frozen) bananas, granola bars and Gushers. I would have liked to stick around a while longer, but it was getting colder (and has been all day – the current windchill tonight as I write is just 6 degrees) and people had feasts to prepare. Sarah and I went to find coffee and hot chocolate. Both good downtown shops were closed, so we ended up driving to Dunkin’ Donuts, sharing pumpkin and gingerbread donuts and warming up.

Overall, it was a great local, laid-back race that I would definitely do again. The shirts were cute, and it’s nice to have one with a well-designed logo not clouded by a dozen sponsors.

And I realize how thankful I am for my health, my ability to run, and all the friends, old and new, who make life so great.

Gardening Fail

My first year of vegetable gardening didn’t go quite as planned.

I had lots of early success, but when it came to the fall harvest, I fell sadly short.

So sad... no caprese

I got a handful of tomatoes, but they never got much larger than golf balls. I left them on the vine, hoping they would grow, but most of them shriveled up and died.

I saw four small eggplants, and hoped they would keep growing, but I finally harvested them after the frost and tried to roast them, but they were just too small.

Good thing I wasn't planning on making carrot cake.

Good thing I wasn't planning on making carrot cake.

The carrots? I waited until the tops were 8 inches tall before excitedly pulling them from the ground… and got a handful scrawny little carrot bites.

The beans started off well, but I think I planted them too late, as they like the cooler weather. They wilted and scorched under the July sun.
I had several peppers start, and one got a decent size before falling to the ground, where some animal got to it. (Or perhaps the critter knocked it off the vine? All I know is it was just about ready to pick one day, and on the ground with gnaw marks the next.) But the rest never got very big, despite my waiting. At the end of the season, while removing the last of the tomato cages, I found two decent sized peppers – with gnaw marks. Damn squirrels.

Anything that got much bigger than this got eaten by the local wildlife

The cucumbers and zucchini sprouts did very well on the driveway, but once I transplanted them into the ground, they really didn’t grow much. I had a couple squash blossoms, but no fruit.

Meanwhile, the cherry tomatoes and basil in planters along the driveway did very well, and the zinnias, begonias and nasturtiums out front thrived in their full sunlight.

So what did I do wrong? Plant too late? Reading labels, it sounds like I should have started these plants earlier, like late April or May, especially the cooler weather veggies like beans.

Not enough sun? I watched a couple days, and while the backyard definitely gets far more than the 0 hours of sun it used to, is 4 hours of full sun and another 1-2 of partial sun enough? The tomatoes stretched to reach the sun, but perhaps the lack of solar power stunted their growth.

Do I need to do more than just water and weed? Should I fertilize? Mulch? Use Miracle Gro?

So, gardening friends – help me out. Alternatively – does anyone have a good local CSA they recommend for next season?

Night Owls: Riding the Late Train

Since I’ve started grad school, I’m taking a late train home two nights a week. These trains are a completely different experience than the usual 5:17 express train. Depending on whether I go out with classmates for a drink (which happens the occasional Thursday) or go straight to the train translates to a completely different cast of characters.

Earlier Late Train

Mostly work- and class- weary riders: Overall, this train is pretty quiet, with many people coming from grad classes. These are mostly professionals who look tired. They tend to either zone out with ear phones or frantically work on their laptops, catching up on either work or school, a glazed look on their face.

Drunk middle-aged dude: More common on Thursday nights, there’s inevitably one overly chatty, drunk middle aged guy in a leather jacket, trying to act 15 years younger than he actually is. He chats up the conductors and tries to flirt with some of the women. He tends to slur his words. Often he makes a quick call to a wife, asking her to come pick him up from the station.

Giggling Teenage Girls: I don’t know how high school age girls always manage to be on this train, but maybe they’re actually college freshman. Regardless, there tends to be a group of 5-8 giggling, shrieking girls, taking pictures of each other, texting each other, and excited that they just spent the day in the big city. (These are likely the same people who walk five abreast down the sidewalk at rush hour.) Try to avoid the car they’re sitting in.

Loud Talker: Every train has at least one person who shouts their end of a long, inane, deeply personal cell phone conversation. This is more often a woman, but men are guilty, too. When they start rattling off credit card numbers, I wonder who else is listening.

McDonald’s Eaters: After 7 PM, the closest thing to food at Union Station is McDonald’s. (Unless it’s closed, which has happened twice recently, leaving your late night dining options Mrs. Fields cookies or beer.) I think I’ve finally figured out when to eat what so I’m not ravenous as I hit the train, but inevitably, there’s at least one person who boards with a bag of fresh, hot McDonald’s fries.

Later Train

The later train has all of the above groups, but they tend to be rowdier. There are more drunks and gigglers, and fewer students and office workers. During baseball season, there are also hoards of very drunk sports fans. There’s also usually at least one very annoyed single mom with a gaggle of young children who are cranky at the late hour. She usually either lacks patience for them and yells at them to sit still and shut up, or she ignores them entirely while she talks on the phone.

The later train is worse in many ways because it only has two cars open (versus three on the earlier late train), so there’s less room to hide.

What other characters have you seen on the late night trains?

Hoodie Weather

I love hoodies. I love when evenings are just chilly enough to justify cuddling into a nice, fleecy hoodie, but not so cold that the heat needs to be on. Over the weekend, I had the windows cracked open just an inch, letting in the crisp fall air and making a hoodie a must.

At night, with that autumn air sneaking into the bedroom through a barely open window, the cat curls up against me, purring as she burrows into the blankets. The nights are lengthening, and hibernation season is approaching. It’s nearly time to swap out my summer bedding for the winter down, though the flannel sheets will come much later.

I spent yesterday walking through Bluff City Cemetery as part of Elgin’s annual Historic Cemetery Walk. As we followed our period-dressed guide through the cemetery, leaves crunching under our sneakers, we shuddered when the sun hid behind the clouds and the wind picked up. We climbed the hills to hear tales of those who shaped Elgin, and it grew chillier as evening approached and the clouds thickened. I was wearing a hoodie over a long-sleeved tee, but found myself wishing I had grabbed a thicker version as I pulled my hands into the sleeves.

The one downside of fall is that hoodies usually also require socks, and I hate having my feet enclosed. This year won’t be as foreign to my feet, as I’ve worn socks for running all summer.

For now, I’ll enjoy my hoodies. I am not nearly as enthusiastic as parka weather!

What’s your favorite time of year?

Finding Community

When I moved to Elgin over four years ago, I knew exactly four people in town, all high school friends. Two have since moved away.

I wasn’t too concerned about it. After all, I had several college friends in Chicago proper, where I was commuting daily.

But over time, I found a real community unlike anything I had ever experienced.

People here are friendly. And involved. And just plain nice.

I grew up in a cornfield subdivision with large lots and no sidewalks, miles from town. We vaguely knew our neighbors – or rather, their cars – and waved as they drove by, but even after more than 20 years, my parents don’t know the names of most of their neighbors.

It’s different here. Even before I moved in, one of the boys from next door had stopped by on his bike and asked if I had kids. When I said no, he instantly responded, “Well, you should get some.”

I joined our very active neighborhood association and met so many of my neighbors. Walking home from the train, I met additional walkers (or “hill climbers,” as I call us) who introduced me to their friends and family. I’ve volunteered and met still others. Via Facebook, I connected with other friends of friends who I now know in real life.

It’s to the point that I can barely leave my house without running into someone I know, in some capacity. I’ve begun referring to Elgin as the “biggest small town” because despite its 100k+ population, everyone knows everyone else.

In my parents’ neighborhood, front yards are larger than most lots in central Elgin, and yet no one ever sits out front – they’re all behind the houses on their decks. As I run or bike through my neighborhood, I typically see dozens of people out on their front porches, sipping coffee in the mornings or having an after dinner drink. Instead of playing on backyard swing sets, kids are running between front yards or biking or skateboarding down the sidewalk, or drawing on the sidewalks themselves. On some of the blocks with less traffic, kids actually play soccer in the street, or set up a basketball hoop at the foot of someone’s driveway.

And since the kids are out, their parents are watching, whether from the porch or through front windows. There are eyes on the street. We inherently know who belongs on a block. Even when I’m six or seven blocks from my own house, I recognize kids and their parents and have a vague idea of which house they belong to.

As an undergrad, I took a couple classes in urban politics and policy because they really interested me, especially since I was suddenly living in a big city (Chicago) after growing up in a cornfield. We talked a lot about Jane Jacobs’ The Death and Life of Great American Cities, about the function of sidewalks and short, walkable blocks, about parks and churches and how a single broken window on a block can telegraph a lack of care to n’er do wells. Though the book is nearly 40 years old, I am constantly reminded of its theories and research as I walk around my own neighborhood.

This neighborhood is even older than Jacobs’ book. My house dates to roughly 1890, and there are some that are even older. Large swaths of bungalows were built in the 20s and 30s, so the neighborhood is well-established, with many families here for multiple decades. As such, a community has really developed around those sidewalks and schools and churches.

I feel very fortunate to have accidentally found such a great community, and I love working to build it even more.

Dog Chase

I had planned out my very first seven-mile run for Sunday morning. As usual, I dawdled getting ready to run, despite waking up before my alarm. I ate some toast and flipped through the Sunday papers as I listened to the steady tick-tick of the clock in the quiet house.

Finally, at 8:15 I laced up my shoes and left. It was a beautiful sunny morning, cool but not cold. I was very comfortable in capris and a short-sleeved tee. I started along my route through my neighborhood, the streets familiar from countless strolls, bike rides and shorter runs. Leaves crunched beneath my feet (already?!?) and I passed a few solo Sunday morning walkers, out with their dogs.

I followed Highland Avenue west, past the construction and the gorgeous Painted Ladies, beyond where the sidewalk ended and a man in a motorized wheelchair sped along on the gravel shoulder, smoking a cigarette I was desperate to get around.

I turned south onto Lyle, into a neighborhood I knew only vaguely, filled with homes built in the 7os and 80s, and then onto Lin-Lor, wondering where the name came from.

And as I turned onto Jane Street, I noticed a dog by my side. I don’t know where she came from. I looked around for an open garage, someone out for a walk or on a front porch, but everything was perfectly, serenely quiet, with no signs of life anywhere. I stopped and looked at the dog, saying, “Go home! Go back home!” with shooing motions in the direction I had come. The dog looked at me quizzically, but patiently. It seemed friendly, but it also looked like a pit bull, and I didn’t want to encourage it or anger it.

After a minute, I decided that maybe if I just resumed my run and ignored her, she would get bored or distracted by a squirrel. So I did, for about a block, but she stayed with me, stride for stride. I stopped again, again saying, “Go home!” and shooing her with my hands, but instead she jumped up on me in a very playful manner. I tried walking a block, with no luck, then running again, but she stayed right with me.

And so we continued, crossing major streets, passing into my own neighborhood, where I hoped I could find someone – anyone! – to help me figure out what to do. At every corner, I’d stop again and try to shoo her home. I tried cutting through yards and taking quick corners to lose her, but nothing worked. She remained right by my side, keeping my pace no matter if I sped up or slowed down.

I’ve been chased by dogs before while running, but never more than three or four house lengths before they either see something more interesting or get called back by their owners.

If I had my phone on me, I would have called the police non-emergency number. We’ve had several problems with loose dogs lately, and the police have begun cracking down and fining the owners (when they can be found). This dog had no collar or tags, so I decided that by re-routing myself onto a more major street, I would hopefully encounter a police car on patrol.

Finally, at Gertrude and Walnut, I was able to flag a passing squad car. The officer rolled down his window and I explained the situation. “Open the back door,” he said, “and see if she’ll hop in.” Without hesitation, she did just that, and the well-prepared officer pulled out a dog treat which she eagerly took. He radioed in the information, hoping to match it against a report of a missing dog. He was very surprised by how far she had traveled – when I got home and tracked it, she was with me a full 2.1 miles.

I wasn’t ever afraid, but rather more annoyed (that my until-then awesome run was screwed up) and concerned for the dog. I didn’t want her to get hit by a car, or encounter another, less-friendly dog, and I was worried she was straying far from home.  But wouldn’t a good owner at least have a collar on her?

The officer said they’d take her downtown to see if she had a microchip, and if not, she would go to a local shelter.

I later called my sister – a dog lover and veterinary technician – and asked what you should do if a dog starts chasing you. “Stop,” she said, “so they don’t think you’re playing, and so they don’t have that hunting instinct to follow.” She also said they can sense fear, which I knew, and is why I tried to remain calm and not panic.

Overall, it was very odd, both in distance and how it started. She was actually a pretty good running companion for awhile. I just hope she finds her way home.