If our dog park had to elect a mayor, it would be Ronnie by acclimation.
Ronnie was one of the first people we met when we first started bring Our Best Friend to the park. He owns two dogs, both female, a lab cross (Brandy) and a malamute cross (Zara). Yet he’s often there with someone else’s dog, in addtion to or instead of his own. Sometimes it’s Billie, an American bulldog, or Missy, a chihuaha mix, or Stanley, a shepherd mix. Ronnie is partial to mutts, and he’s crazy about Our Best Friend. He always calls him over, pretending he has a ball to throw, but he’s like Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown; his hand is empty. I think OBF is getting wise to him; he doesn’t some so quick when Ronnie calls.
Ronnie knows everyone in the park, and his friendships extend past the park’s fence. I’ve heard him talking with people about sporting events, and the conversation is often a continuation about their discussion from the night before, when they all watching the game at home and chatting by phone. The other day, he greeted someone with, “I saw your sister here yesterday.” And a different person asked, “Was my dad here then?” I didn’t know any of these people, much less that their siblings and parents come with dogs of their own.
I don’t know what Ronnie does for a living exactly, something to do with currency exchange, I think (either that or he’s a ticket scalper), but it’s clear it gives him a lot of free time. He’s at the park almost every day, sometimes more than once. He’ll come once with his own dogs, later with someone else’s. One Sunday he was there with five dogs. The Spouse thinks we should get Ronnie to pick up Our Best Friend on the way.
Ronnie was instrumental in Our Best Friend’s successful integration into the park. The first time we brought him, we were very nervous. We didn’t know how OBF would react when let loose around other dogs, because he barked so aggressively at other dogs whenever we tried to walk him. We are not dog behaviour experts, and we can’t tell the difference between excited barking and aggressive barking. So the first time we brought OBF, we had him on a leash.
Our Best Friend barked and barked and barked. We tried to calm him down, but he kept lunging at all the other dogs who came near us. Then Ronnie walked up to us and said, “You need to take off the leash.”
Well, that sounded like bad advice to us. What if OBF went nuts on someone’s dog? But Ronnie was sure that it was the leash making OBF so crazy. Leashes makes dogs feel vulnerable. They can’t defend themselves or run away when restrained by a leash. And Ronnie was right. The minute we undid the leash (with considerable reluctance and fear, and the Middle Child in terror), everything got better. OBF sniffed Ronnie’s dogs in a friendly, sociable way, and ran around like a kid after a long day at school. All signs of aggression vanished. That was beginning of our happy dog park days.
Ronnie always asks about my girls; for reasons unclear to me, he calls the Youngest “the Troublemaker.” At first it bothered me, but then my daughter told me, giggling, “He’s joking!” I knew that, but I wasn’t sure she did. Of course the girls love his dogs. Brandy is affectionate and energetic; Zara is friendly and calm. She usually flops down on the grass to relax, while Brandy runs around playing. (Sometimes she can even entice OBF to play chase.) Today she left a great deal of slobber on my coat. I threatened Ronnie with dry cleaning bills, and he just laughed and said, “That’s what you get for loving her.” No, I think, that’s what you get when you’re loved back, as I got multiple Brandy kisses on the nose.
His dogs can slobber on me all they want. Ronnie embodies the spirit of our park– friendly, open, and a dog lover to the bone. When he runs for mayor, he has my vote. Not that he needs it, of course– he’s the only man for the job.