Expressway essay writer Matthew Hickerson takes his chocolate Lab, Lilah, for a...

Expressway essay writer Matthew Hickerson takes his chocolate Lab, Lilah, for a walk on Vineyard Road in Huntington Bay on Aug. 10, 2022.  Credit: Emma Hickerson

The preferred pandemic pastime in our Huntington Bay neighborhood seems to be dog walking.

With the kids in college and beyond, our days of running into neighbors at bus stops and on soccer fields are long over; the main way we see our neighbors is on dog walks.

As a faces-over-names person, I’ve discovered that while I recognize many people around our Huntington Bay streets, I rarely remember their names. Yet I am somehow able to recall the names of their dogs.

My wife will ask me, “Who were you talking to?” To which I reply, “I don’t know. You know the dog, William the Husky with the sky-blue eyes.”

There comes a point in any neighborly relationship when it’s too late to ask one’s name. You really ought to know by now. And so I have taken to giving people nicknames or aligning them with their dogs. Some are simple: Shelly’s mom. Some are descriptive: the Wild Walking Woman, who is out there no matter the weather conditions. And then the whimsical ones: Prickly Paul and his Pouncing Pomeranian. His name is not Paul, and I’m not sure the dog is a Pomeranian, but it works for me.

My wife lives in fear of me calling people by one of these names. “Oh hi, Prickly. How are you?”

Assuming such a malaprop can be avoided, conversations turn to dog health. Bella — of Bella and Edward from the “Twilight” saga — has blown out an anterior cruciate ligament. Twice.

Discussions of ailments then turn into conversations of what meds the dogs might be on. “Oh, we have some Rimadyl if you need it.” Are doggie drug deals legal? Asking for a friend.

These walks also illuminate how poorly behaved Lilah, our chocolate Lab, really is. The ideal leash mode is supposed to resemble a “J” — loosely hanging from the owner’s left hand while the dog walks calmly at one’s side. In Lilah’s case, the leash looks like a horizontal exclamation point as she drags me along with all her might. I look longingly at well-behaved Labs with their owners — even if it seems most of the calm ones are guide-dog dropouts.

I’m further embarrassed when people ask how old our “puppy” is and I have to tell them she’s 4½. Yes, she has not grown up. And this conversation usually occurs when Lilah has become hopelessly tangled around my legs attempting to greet (sniff) another dog. So embarrassing.

Neighborhoods really do rally around dogs. A picture of a lost dog in our area was on almost every telephone pole, and people searched for days until the dog was found — a happy ending. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the escaped bearded dragon, appearing on significantly fewer telephone poles and not found as far as I know. Not quite as cute.

We also have a walking cat in the area. By walking, I mean it follows its owner on walks, trailing behind calmly, not on a leash. It’s quite remarkable. If I ever had Lilah off her leash, she would race after a squirrel and never be seen again.

So if you ever see someone being pulled senseless by a chocolate Lab named Lilah, my name is Matt. Not that you will remember.

Reader Matthew Hickerson lives in Huntington Bay.