Oakland couple walked their dog through every Pittsburgh neighborhood

Thomas Strock and Erica Silvestri took their dog Chewie on a long walk — through the neighborhoods.

Yes, neighborhoods.

The South Oakland couple planned out the journey to stroll through all 90 of Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods.

They found the list of stops from VisitPittsburgh.

They took their first steps on Jan. 15, 2021, and finished on Dec. 4, 2021. At each location, they took a photo and chronicled the steps on a website they created for other dog parents of Goldendoodles called Popular Doodle. The site publishes information about all poodle mixes and doodle breeds such as Goldendoodles, Labradoodles, Bernedoodles, Cavapoons, Maltipoos and more.

The site includes articles on everything from dog training to vacationing with your four-legged friend, as well as an Etsy shop for products such as doormats and holiday items.

Chewie, a 5-year-old Goldendoodle, was named after the Chewbacca character (whose nickname is Chewie) from the Star Wars movies.

“We came up with the idea because we wanted to do something fun and go on an adventure with our dog,” said Strock, a marketing analyst who grew up on the eastern side of Pennsylvania. “Because of the pandemic, we were limited to doing it in our own backyard. Fortunately, Pittsburgh has a pretty cool backyard.”

The couple drove to most of the neighborhoods and created a route that would circle them back to where they were parked.

“We met so many cool people along the way,” Strock said. “And, of course, many people walking their dogs. Each neighborhood is unique and has its own personality.”


Courtesy of Thomas Strock and Erica Silvestri

Thomas Strock and Chewie in Bloomfield.


They spotted a big wooden board of baseball cards in Perry South and birdhouses hanging from a tree in Bloomfield.

“We saw things we didn’t expect to see,” Strock said. “When we walked by the Arlington Spray Park in the South Side Slopes, we weren’t sure what it was at first.”

Discovering new places was good for the couple and their pet, Strock said.

“Chewie gets more excited about car rides now, because before when he got in the car he was going to vet, but now he associates the car ride with one of these walks,” Strock said. “It’s important to spend quality time with your dog and to do something out of the normal routine.”

There are benefits to taking new routes, according to Dr. Jose Arce of Puerto Rico, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association. (Arce added that the late Roberto Clemente was his childhood hero.)

Walking, in general, is healthy for both dogs and for their owners, he said. It helps mentally and physically. Rotating a route is also good because it introduces a dog to ever-changing scenery. Arce often chooses different paths when deciding where to take his dog for a walk.

Arce said what is most important is to always be mindful of the weather. If it’s too hot, a dog’s paw pads can burn. If it’s icy, the animal can fall and get hurt.

He also said to make sure to clean up after the dog and to obey leash laws.

“Walking is also something to help a pet that might be out of shape,” Arce said. “Going to a dog park is also an option if you want to introduce a new activity to your dog. It’s also important to know your dog and how long of a walk he or she likes to take.”


Courtesy of Thomas Strock and Erica Silvestri

Thomas Strock and Chewie at The Terminal in the Strip District.


Strock said most walks averaged 2-3 miles, which is approximately 4,000-6,000 steps for humans and about double that for dogs.

“Humans see with their eyes and dogs see with their nose,” said Silvestri, who makes smoothie cubes as a treat for Chewie. She uses a variety of dog-safe, human food ingredients that are frozen into bite-sized popsicles.

Sometimes it’s the little things that make the difference, Strock said. It’s about becoming best friends with your furry friend.

“This experience gave us a chance to bond with our dog,” Strock said. “It gave him mental stimulation, which is so important for dogs. They get to see new things and smell new smells. Lots of times, dogs spend so much time looking at the same four walls for hours and hours each day, especially during the pandemic.”

Strock said “pandemic puppies” – those acquired during the past two years – have been undersocialized because people haven’t been going out as much.

That’s why Strock and Silvestri planned the walks: to give them something to look forward to during the pandemic. They would sometimes explore one neighborhood and on other occasions more than one, depending on the location.

The University of Pittsburgh graduates tried to find the nicest possible days, but as Strock said, “We live in Pittsburgh, so it didn’t always work out that way.”

“I have lived here all my life, but in the past year, I have seen places in Pittsburgh I never saw before,” said Silvestri, a Murrysville native, who is starting a job as a labor and delivery nurse at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital. “We have experienced new areas of the city through our adventures with Chewie.”

And, for their next journey?

“We are thinking about visiting all of the state parks,” Silvestri said.

That will be quite a long walk.

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062, [email protected] or via Twitter .