Human friends are almost a bonus at the dog park. It’s really the canine companionship that draws people. I know a few teens who hang out there because they don’t have a dog of their own, and they crave the kind of affection only dogs can give. I find that I often ignore my own dog in order to make a new four-legged friend.
As dogs tend to be friendly, you don’t always know if it’s you, or if the dog just likes people. I realized I had my first true dog friend last winter. We had been away from the park for over two months, following Our Best Friend’s complicated recovery from what should have been a routine procedure. We walked in, Our Best Friend thrilled to be back and racing around, when a small ball of brown fur hurled itself at me and leaped as high as my head. It was Morris, a 35-pound cross between a retriever and a pole vaulter. We had spent a lot of time enjoying his Frisbee-retrieving antics over the summer, but I had no idea the depth of his attachment until that winter day, when I received the canine equivalent of a bear hug and an enthusiatic, “Long time no see!!! WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN???”
I never felt so loved in all my life.
Yesterday the dog and I came alone, no kids, no spouse. It was early morning, very quiet in the park. There were two dogs I’d never seen before playing together, a little terrier and something that looked like a cross between a basenji and Staffordshire. I stopped to pat them. A golden retriever wandered up, wanting his share of affection. My dog was off doing his own thing. Two men stood nearby, engrossed in conversation. I sat down on a bench behind them. The Staffordshire cross jumped on the bench beside me and curled up next to me for a cuddle. The golden leaned against my knees. I just on the bench, enjoying the company of two dogs I’d never met before, but who were quick to offer their instant friendship. Their owners turned around at one point and caught sight of their pets romancing a stranger. I smiled and shrugged, and they laughed and went back to their conversation. It was their day for human interaction, and my day for the unconditional love that is the definition of Dog.