I've spent this past week housesitting for some friends and walking their dog every day after work. While I enjoy my roommate's cat, it's not the same thing as being able to wander the streets and explore with a loyal companion.
I find that I get hit on less (I've never walked fu-fu dogs, they've always been shepherd mixes and in one case, a pit bull), and that I talk to the neighbors more. Love for creatures seems to cut across all the social lines we draw, and on these walks over the past couple years of doing this, I've met a lot of people who are now my neighbors.
And I don't think one gets a sense of the neighborhood by reading about it or driving through, or reducing it to "that's where those yuppies live" or "isn't that the Puerto Rican part of town?" or "Do you ever feel unsafe?"
And yes, these do describe where I live, but so many other things are there too. The guy who painted all those Victorian homes on Franklin Avenue, pickup games of soccer at the rec center, the ice cream stand that sells soft serve and hot dogs, the greasy spoon diners on Lorain, punks on bicycles, Somali girls with gold jewelry and veils, hearing 6 different languages at any given time. People from Liberia, Trinidad, Puerto Rico, Lebanon Vietnam, Burundi, Congo, Russia, the suburbs, the other side of town.
I like having a sense of rootedness and connectedness, knowing the names or at least the faces. Living in Kent was like that for me, walking everywhere and taking in all the small details of my surroundings, and I'm hoping it will be that way here.