I used to think life was a playground. You know, there were bullies in pinstripes and ball hogs in pumps. In a corner would be the fair play buddies, the sunshine sisters smiling in all weather, the go go guys running their sweat-dripping games. No more. Now I really believe life should be a dog park.
We spend 6 or 7 hours a week at a nearby dog park with Puppy Face, “we” being me, son and daughter and Puppy Face being the year old Roscoe, half German Short Hair Pointer and half French Bulldog. People watching has nothing on dog watching. The subtleties of the canine social gathering is an intricate weave: the give and take, nip and bump, bark and growl, tug and push. Roscoe is a regular in the 4-6 pm bunch. He’s the happy guy, a runner who delights in being the fastest. He’s sleek and beautiful to watch when he races against another sprinter, or glances over his shoulder to see the pack chasing him. A pitbull owner described Roscoe as an undercover bulldog, since he looks mostly pointer but will growl when his boundaries are being encroached. Confident, not arrogant. He never tires and rarely wants to head home. I scoop his 40 pound body up and walk him out, with him riding my hip and mouthing his squishy ball like a pacifier.
The dog park has all kinds. Jake is the shepherd mix who has been known to start fights. He’s come a long way, I heard, thanks to the work his owner devoted to him. Roscoe outran Jake’s nips and learned quickly to neutralize his aggressive body language; a week ago I saw Roscoe try to get Jake to play tug. Duke, a 70 pound Rottie a few months younger than Roscoe, is one of his best friends. They greet each other with face licks. Before Roscoe developed a great affection for the squishy ball (he carries it continuously at the park) he used to play tug with Duke. A piece of rope would work, and often Roscoe would be the one to offer an end to Duke. Despite their mismatched sizes, Roscoe held his own; he’s 40 pounds of solid bulldog MUSCLE. The complete delight of two dogs testing their strength against each other compels humans to stand still, watch and smile.
Yesterday a new bloodhound showed up. Lucy is a referee. Whenever another dog became a little too pushy or crossed some canine line in the sand she would let loose with a string of deep baying reprimands. Lucy approached the offending dog while talking, loudly; even Jake backed down with a slightly irritated look on his face. Lucy was either irreproachable in her reasoning or simply too annoying to argue with on the matter.
Honesty is a common language in the dog park. A dog might not like another dog; they will communicate that in various ways, in varying degrees, and if they can’t avoid each other or resolve the problem they’ll escalate it until it is resolved. Few dogs carry around hurt feelings or nurse grudges for long. Not at the dog park. Take me to the dog park.
Will the other dogs play with me, I wonder?
Cross-posted to Princess Hedgehog Chronicles.