We've got a lot of dogs in our neighborhood, and the way they go about their business deserves a little explanation. First of all, most dogs here are kept out in the street, at least during the day, and often at night as well. Our neighborhood doesn't get a lot of car traffic, and that which it does is forced to move pretty slow – we're on a narrowish gravel street – so it's not all that hazardous for them around here.
These half-street/half-pet dogs do things in a way that is almost totally unlike dogs back home. I feel like in the U.S., dogs are in one of 2 modes: "hang-out", which involves lazy sleeping, or play, or ambling about a closed space, be it a house or a yard; "out-and-about", in which the dog follows its human companion for a walk about the world. There really isn't much else.
But these dogs in our neighborhood live their lives outside, and just don't seem to have these same categories for behavior. They hang out plenty, and they go on walks, and do all manner of other things, as well. But everything these dogs do is almost entirely self-directed. When the dog is hanging out, it's not because it doesn't have anywhere to be. It could be anywhere – seriously, several of these dogs have a foraging radius (think of the way that wildlife biologists talk about wolves and bears in their natural habitat) of 8-10 blocks. Others keep pretty close to home – Nacho, pictured at left and one of our favorites, only ranges up and down one block, always on the same street, and can often be found on this same doorstep (thanks Peter for the photo).
But when these dogs are going somewhere, they are going. Another of our favorites, a Chow mix we've named Guapo, has an especially wide range. I have seen him 10-12 blocks from here, down the hill, in another neighborhood entirely. And when this dog is going somewhere, as he often his, there really isn't much going to stop him. He's not asocial about it; he will stop to sniff and tussle with groups of other dogs, and will look up at us as he goes past, but his very directed, trotting pace can't really be made to stop. It is a pace that says "I've got somewhere to be." And this is not especially uncommon among these animals. They go places, and not because anyone tells them to, or drags them from a leash. They've got business, and they're going to see it done.