In spite of what my recent posts sound like, we have taken Our Best Friend to the park a few times in the last few weeks. And it’s still the fun place that inspired me to start this blog in the first place.
I am always amazed at the number of new dogs (and new people) I meet. I keep thinking that after over a year, coming several times a week at different times of the day, I should know everybody by now. Yet there are always new dogs and new people, making for different experiences each time.
At the beginning of September I struck up a conversation with a woman who told me that she and her partner had just moved to the nieghbourhood, bringing four children and a dog together in a new, blended family. Yes, it was stressful and hectic, but wonderful too, and coming to the dog park was something they all loved. She even told me her name, and I gave her mine. She said she looked forward to seeing us again, I think because we’re also one of the rare “families” that come. Naturally I haven’t seen her since, and of course, I’ve also forgotten her name. But I hope we see each other again too. I want to hear that the two families are really becoming one, and see a happy ending unfolding in front of us.
We also met a young man with his girlfriend and his young miniature pinscher. I didn’t even recognize the dog as a miniature pinscher, as it was smaller than most, with no black at all, only brown. I thought it was a rat terrier or chihuahua, and it ran through the park faster than the greyhounds. Just watching it go was highly entertaining, but I found when I reached out my hand to make friends, it backed off. “He’s nervous around people,” the owner explained.
Meanwhile, his girlfriend was tentatively reaching out toward Our Best Friend, who was being his usual aloof self with a stranger. “Can I pat him?” she asked anxiously. “I’m still nervous around dogs, but I’m trying to get over it.” We assured her that Our Best Friend was perfectly harmless, and she patted him gingerly, starting when he moved. The irony was amazing: a dog afraid of people, and a girlfriend afraid of dogs. This dude never has to worry that she’ll steal the dog if they break up.
And we did see old friends too. There’s Happy, a black lab cross who “talks” in a highly distinctive hoarse bark. Princess, the golden retriever, always comes trotting fast when she sees my girls; she lives to be patted by small children, and mine are happy to oblige. Her owner is a slightly eccentric older woman with an amazing European air. She has her group of friends that she likes to chat with, but she’s always gracious to my girls and we have a very cordial rapport. Sierra, a thirteen-year-old poodle, capers like a puppy and comes to press her head against me for a love, especially after her owner tells off for eating dirt. And we even saw Pal, whom I hadn’t seen in months, a “goth” Dalmation with black rings around both his eyes and a sweet disposition. His owner is a quiet but friendly young woman, and we all spent a good ten minutes marvelling at the amount of white fur that covered the picnic table he was sitting on. My Oldest’s skirt was covered in tiny white hairs when she was done playing. Lesson learned: Dalmation owners should not wear black.
And there were days I went and didn’t see a soul I knew, or talk to anyone. You see people sitting on benches reading, talking on their cels, or actually playing with their dog. Whenever I go mid-morning, I try to remember to bring my iPod so I feel less alone. I know that’s also part of the dog park experience, but the truth is, I like the interactive times better. I see the dog as a catalyst to relationships between people. The category “dog lover” is the common denominator that makes us find other factors we might share. And anything that helps people get along better is a good thing.