The dog park is a different place at different times of day. The most social time is after 5:00 p.m., when people come in after work and decompress in the fresh air and relaxed atmosphere. 7:00 a.m. has a completely different feel; the people there at them time are the organized, efficient types who are taking care of their pet-ownership responsibilities before heading to their job responsibilities. I one got there at 8:15 to find a good number of people and dogs running around. Then, around 8:30, it started emptying out, and by 9:00 Our Best Friend and I were all alone.
Thus the early morning crowd is more “businesslike” somehow. They are there to excercise their dog before they go off to earn kibble for the food bowl. They may nod and smile, but there’s less casual chatter and socializing.
Mid-morning is different too. If you’re at the dog park in the middle of the work day, you are either 1) a student, 2) unemployed, or 3) working from home. One day last week I headed over around 10:30. There were very few people, but everyone was engaged in conversation. On the walk over, I was sorry I’d forgotten to bring a book or iPod, but soon as I came in, I was immediately greeted by someone who clearly remembered me from a previous encounter. (I am terrible with faces, and didn’t recognize her, which I managed to cover up a bit. One of these days, I will be caught feigning knowledge with an embarrassing slip-up.) She had brought her dog over from Asia, and we chatted about what it’s like to deal with pet travel. Another woman came in, the dogs were romping, we all chatted like ladies of leisure about dog care issues.
Eventually I realized that my dog was all the way across the park, uncharacteristically socializing with a total stranger. As Our Best Friend is still learning social skills and this person had a Doberman, I decided I better check it out. The answer was simple. Dobie’s owner had a ball; any ball turn Our Best Friend into Your Best Friend in an instant. Balls will also intiate fights when the rightful owner wants his rightful turn. I took the chewy delight away from Our Best Friend, and warned him, “If you pick a fight with a Doberman, you’re going to lose, so don’t try it.” The Doberman’s owner laughed and said, “No he won’t, because our dog won’t fight.” Mr. Doberman was only 18 months old, sweet and gentle, and again there was some leisurely chatting.
When I went back across, the conversations had changed, and my original acquaintance had left. There was now a conversation about Haitian relief. It was a wonderful reminder that isn’t always about the dogs; we find our humantiy at the park as well.