Jenny on her wagon, earning her the nickname “Jenny Wagon.”
Second only to Halloween, National Good Neighbor Day is my favorite day of the year. They are my favorite because both involve neighbors, and I love neighbors!
In honor of National Good Neighbor Day, which is about a week away on 9/28, I want to share a story about how my good neighbors helped my wife and I get through one of the most difficult experiences of our lives: the passing of our beloved dog, “Jenny Wagon,” last summer.
Jenny was a very sweet and loving dog. Being deaf, she relied on her sight and the movement of facial expressions of others to navigate the world. She loved to be hugged and petted but also enjoyed her own space. She would never bite, but would almost take your hand off if you gave her a treat without using an open palm.
In 2011, Jenny’s health started to decline – before long, Jenny had difficulty walking. To help her get around, I bought her a Radio Flyer All-Terrain wagon. I pulled her all over our Washington DC neighborhood to get her fresh air and lots of good lovin’ from everyone she encountered. Jenny spent countless days hanging out in the courtyard, and our neighbors started calling her “Jenny Wagon” – she became a fixture in our building’s community.
The last six months of her life were particularly challenging. Although she was quite content, Jenny could no longer stand up on her own and needed constant care. If not for our kind neighbors who stepped up to the plate, my wife and I would have been completely overwhelmed trying to keep her comfortable and happy. Our neighbors helped walk her, watched her when we needed to leave her for more than a couple of hours, and, when things got tough towards the end, provided much-needed emotional support for me and my wife.
The evening before we let Jenny go, my wife and I decided to host a celebration of life to spoil Jenny and make her last evening special and, most importantly, yummy! Over 40 good neighbors came by to give Jenny one last scratch, a hug, and a small piece of bacon, Jenny’s favorite treat. The next morning, Jenny went to heaven with a heart full of love and belly full of bacon. I am still appreciative of our good neighbors, whose kind gestures helped my wife and I get through a very tough time in our lives.
Jenny with her loving community in the neighborhood.
Since that experience, I’ve learned that every day can be a Good Neighbor Day. There are countless opportunities to be kind to those who live in our communities. A good neighbor moment could be as simple as a smile, offering to lend a helping a hand, or checking in on a neighbor going through a tough time, much like I was with Jenny. I’m thankful to have had such a caring community support, and most importantly, help celebrate Jenny’s wonderful life and spirit.
This has been my ultimate good neighbor moment.
I encourage you to take a couple minutes to share your own Good Neighbor Moment, and if there is a special neighbor in your life, you can say thank you by nominating him/her for Nextdoor’s Good Neighbor Awards.
Joseph Porcelli is Senior City Strategist and “Professional Neighbor” at Nextdoor. Prior to joining Nextdoor, Joseph has worked in many professional capacities for Public Safety Agencies, in tech firms that support them, and in volunteer capacities to improve quality of life and increase safety and preparedness in communities. In his free time, Joseph serves as the lead organizer for SnowCrew.org, which connects people who are unable to shovel their driveways or sidewalks with neighbors who can help dig them out after snowstorms.