As I said, the dog park is a little like the Internet. You can limit the amount of information you share, and the relationship can be purely park-based. You can see someone for weeks or months on end, but you don’t have a phone number, an e-mail address, or even a last name, and then one day they vanish, leaving you feeling…. jeez, where did they go?
It’s even worse when real life intrudes on park life, and they leave you not knowing how life has turned out. That’s the story of me and Pat.
Pat started coming to the park with two cocker spaniels last winter. She was visiting from another province, taking take of her grandchildren while her daughter was undergoing treatment for cancer. We would run into each other a few times a week, I would ask about the daughter and grandkids. I heard about their trip to Europe with an aunt, about her daughter’s return from the hospital, the hopeful outlook. I started to wonder if there was more I could do, a meal I could bring, community resources I should make myself aware of. But I never acted on it.
One day Pat stopped coming. She had told me she was going back home to sell her house and buy a new one in a better location, but afterwards she was supposed to come back to her daughter. I waited for her return, wanting to know if the sale and purchase had gone through, how her daughter was, how the grandchildren were doing. (And of course I missed the dogs.) But I suppose her daughter recovered enough that Mom’s return trip was brief, and now Pat’s back home and life has resumed its routine for all.
But I’ll always wonder how Pat’s daughter is doing, if she’s in remission, if those kids, whom I never met, still have their mom. I don’t even know the daughter’s name. But if someone new shows up at the park with two cocker spaniels named Billy and Muggsy in tow, I’ll be sure to say hello right away and find out how my friend Pat is doing.