WHEN I adopted my dog, Regan, six months ago, I made a few promises myself.

First I would never skimp on her exercise. Second, I would never feed her from the table or allow groveling in its vicinity. Third I would never get lazy and use her as column fodder.

Two out of three aren't bad.

She is 5 1/2 years old, about 48 pounds, and mostly black, but with blazes of white in all the right places; her paws, her chest, the tip of her tail. ''Border'' collie?'' ask people who know the breed, but a DNA test said different. She's mostly Australian and shepherd and Siberian husky.

And she's not just smart. She's telepathic.

From the slightest twitch of my thoughts, she can tell that I'm mulling the mortal sin of leaving our Manhattan apartment without her, in which event she wedges herself against the front door to form a blockade of fur and flesh.

I'm totally convinced that she could beat Donald Trump in a general election, but she'd never get through the Democratic primary.

Her Upward Hound proposal for puppy preK is an incremental, modestly funded shadow of Bernie Sander's.version.

But this column isn't really about Regan, so go easy on me.

She's my pivot into a lament about the degradation of our country's civic culture and a suggestion of how to push back at that process. You expected a simple, sentimental ode to the joys of a four-legged companion? Sorry. This is a mutt -and- switch.

You see, something happens when Regan does leave the apartment with me, something so rare these days that's it's practically revolutionary.

I have honest-to-goodness conversations with actual strangers, who are from all kinds of backgrounds and occupy all sorts of categories : young and old, black and white, rich and not, fit and fat.

Some use highfalutin words befitting their highfalutin jobs. Some talk bluntly and plainly. Some curse the city's mayor, Bill de Blasio. Some have a more generous assessment of him. None bicker, because we don't have our guards up. That's not the posture we're in.

A dog or dogs have established a bridge between us and started us-off on a note of good faith. Because we love dogs, we can't all be bad.

If the strangers are dog-less and are pausing to pet Regan, our exchange maybe as brief as their asking and my explaining the origin of her name.

[Her previous owner bestowed on her, though I sometimes joke that's it's a homage to the little girl in ''The Exorcist.'']

If they have dogs of their own, it lengthens, in part because our charges olfactory inventories of each other can be extensive, not to mention invasive. I wish I was half as uninhibited as Regan. O.K., maybe just one-fifth.

In Central Park, there's a whole vibrant society of those of us with dogs, especially during the off-leash hours before 9 a.m. and after 9 p.m., when I led Regan lead the way and the people I get to know or are appendages of the dogs she decides to wrestle with.

They are not chosen by some social-media algorithm, sorted by income level, screened by political affiliation.

Which is to say that these communions are gloriously out of step with the times.

Over the past decade, I've watched more and more Americans retreat with greater and greater efficiency into increasingly homogeneous enclaves.

I've marveled our fine grained tiers of affluence and our micro-climates of privilege, which are reflected and reinforced by the neighborhoods that we settle in, the vacation flocks that we flock to, the exercise fields that we embrace, the schools that we send our children to

That's author Frank Bruni, at his very best, as this great piece of thinking and writing, continues. The World Students Society wishes him very well.


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