On the porch of a red and green painted house, an old retired couple sits outside on wicker chairs awaiting their next guests. The table between them holds drinks and a container of varied dog treats.
An empty chair by them waits for its next sitter. There used to be two, but because of the pandemic the couple decided to downsize to enforce social distancing.
A sign hanging above them reads “Come sit on my porch.”
West Bent Avenue and lifelong Oshkosh residents Lindy and Dennis Norkofski have been married 48 years. They sit outside and chat with neighbors and passersby every day — especially the dogs.
The couple sits outside rain or shine. Blinds are installed on either side of their porch to block the wind and light rain when it’s necessary.
Lindy said that her and Dennis can see upwards of 16 dogs and over 20 people visit per day.
“As the neighborhood changes, there’s more people that walk dogs now,” Lindy said. “I will see somebody walking across the street with a dog that I haven’t met yet and I’ll always say, ‘How’s your puppy doing today?’”
Some of the dogs that come by their house already know what to expect.
“They are in such a hurry to get over here,” Dennis said. “There’s one guy that walks up with a Newfoundland, probably about 120 pounds. [The owner] can hardly hold him back; he almost drags him across the street.”
The Norkofskis sit outside as early as 6:30 a.m. and stay out sometimes as late as 8 or 9 p.m.; their interactions with people can range from short small talk in passing to a sitting conversation that lasts over an hour.
Lindy explained that their porch and the conversations they have on it are judgment free. Opinions are respected, and joking is encouraged.
“Come by for the hugs and stay for the sarcasm,” Matt Mikkelsen, a close friend of the Norkofskis, said. “Dogs just make it easy to bridge to a complete stranger. They’re always asking if they can give treats to somebody’s dog. From there, it’s just getting to know people.”
Lindy and Dennis are open to having any kind of conversation on their porch, whether it be political, personal or anything in between. They understand that not everybody’s living situations are, or were, the same.
“If you’re having issues with whatever in life, come here,” Lindy said. “I will not judge you. Ask me my opinion and I will be honest with you, but I will not judge anybody because we all make choices in life.”
Lindy and Dennis are changing the community through dog treats and caring for others, Mikkelsen said.
“Something that’s really amazing, especially in today’s day and age, is that they’re that island of bringing the community together,” he said.
And all the Norkofskis want is to make others happy.
“If I make you feel better for you coming to say hi to me, that’s all I want,” Lindy said. “I don’t expect anything. I don’t want anything. Just come and talk to me if you want to and enjoy life.”