I travel with an untrained puppy and attempt to go on a walk through Philadelphia, PA with her by my side.


In the late afternoon of a sunny September day, I braved the impossible: I walked a six-month-old German Shepard puppy down Philadelphia’s busy, historic and food-central Market Street. 

Nala Sudfeld weighs in at about 45 pounds and is supposed to gain up to 30 pounds by the time she is fully grown. Although Nala was born in California, she was raised in the great outdoors of Oregon. She loves long walks and getting off the leash to run freely. 

Nala’s owner (my brother) had to leave for work in the city and left her in my care in late July. On Sept. 16, I was able to book a flight with the puppy and reunite the two.  

The flight was no walk in the park. In order to get her to Philadelphia, we had to research which airlines were the safest for traveling with pets in cargo (this young puppy is already too big to go in the cabin). Countless pieces of paperwork, phone calls with the airlines and two cancelled flights later, Nala and I were jet-setting to Philly. 

My brother’s puppy with the Philadelphia skyline as the backdrop. Courtesy of Sarah E. Sudfeld.

We arrived in the city and headed to the apartment where we would be staying. After a long day of virtual classes, the puppy (and I) became restless. It was time for a tour of the great city. 

The risks were high, because not only would I be walking with a young puppy, but we’re still in a global pandemic. Nala grew up with “wide-open spaces,” as The Chicks would say. She is used to going on walks and eventually being unleashed. I am strictly quarantining and following CDC guidelines by wearing a mask while socially distancing from others, so I had to be vigilant and make sure the puppy didn’t get too close to others. 

Going on this city tour wouldn’t be easy, but we both needed it. It would take meticulous route planning and packing for the trip to be successful. With a route leading to the historic Market Street and a backpack filled with treats and water, we headed out. 

Strapped into her neon pink harness, I hooked on her leash. She tried to chew off the leash the second it was on — again, she’s a puppy. We rode down the elevator and hit the sidewalk. 

Nala enjoying the city with her neon pink harness. Courtesy of Sarah E. Sudfeld.

Our quest began. 

Nala was born during the pandemic, and it was her first time ever being in a city. She doesn’t know what life used to look like — I think she assumes you only get to see the lower half of the face of your owner/family/dog-walking-aunt. 

Nala also didn’t understand why I stopped at crosswalks, as she’d continue marching on. We had a brief discussion about it early on, and she learned by the end of the nearly three-mile walk that when I stopped, she stopped. I was quite the proud dog-walker at that moment. She earned treats and hype statements like, “that’s a good girl!”

Nala was enthralled by the city. She only barked at a pigeon (and a cop that tried to pet her). And with all the clean cut grass from the dog park, Nala was finally able to stiff the wild scents of a city. 

Nala eventually calmed down, and we strolled down the pavement looking at the architecture of Philadelphia. It displays the history of the United States, and the people reminded me (and maybe even Nala) of the joys of humanity. 

We made it to our final destination, City Hall. Nala was focused on sniffing every part of the city, while I looked up at the Victorian style building in awe. 

After walking about three miles, we made it back to the apartment building. She came inside and immediately laid down and took a nap. 

I was pleasantly surprised by how well she did. She seemed just as enamored by the smells of the city as I was by the historicity of it.