When everyone has left the house each morning, Annie and I enter another world. It’s a secret world unknown to those who have important places to go – our local off-leash dog park. We spend an hour or so in another dimension with a sort of informal dog walking ‘club’. Our obedience trainer and her gentle and dignified German Shepherd, Sara, walk here daily. Many of her training ‘pupils’ and other doggy people she’s met over the years, her ‘groupies’, gather every day for relaxed conversation and rambling about the park whilst the dogs all rush about, socialising and being active. We can meet forty dogs here some days. Joyful chaos.
We’ve met every type of dog imaginable. Last week we laughed at Monty, a young Bernese Mountain dog, playing with Winston, a Shitzu mix pup. Little and Large, a comedy duo. There are Great Danes and Chihuahuas, pedigree dogs and bitzers like Annie. There’s even a Pit Bull terrier who visits occasionally – an awesome presence, but even tempered and well-behaved. A credit to his owner. We once met the most unusual pair, Pharoah hounds, also known as Maltese Rabbit dogs. They look like Anubis, the Egyptian dog headed god. I’m learning a lot about dogs.
It’s been great for Annie, who was not well socialised when she came to us. She has grown to be comfortable and confident around other dogs, and has made some firm friends and playmates here. It’s been great for me, as a first time dog owner, to hear everyone’s doggy experiences and kindly advice.
The other unexpected and delightful outcome of what could be considered a chore, is that I’ve made friends and acquaintances way outside my usual social circle, and have amusing anecdotes and gossip to tell Mr. B on a daily basis.
People in every stage of life from their 20’s to their 80’s turn up unfailingly and chat about last night’s TV, sport, politics, religion, and of course, dogs, all the subjects off-limits at a dinner party.
A cool guy in his 20’s, looking the worse for wear after a night of clubbing, may be talking to a lady in her 80’s about the latest political stuff-up. I’m talking to an anaesthetist, about scuba diving in The Galapagos Islands, where he’s just been. A couple of ladies of a certain age are chatting about last night’s episode of the BBC series Broadchurch. These ladies love a murder mystery – quite bloodthirsty. A particularly lovely lady encouraged me to harvest and preserve my olives. She even brought me her recipe.
Of course everyone’s different, and some quite opinionated. There have been heated discussions with passions running high, but it’s a bit different here it seems. All is forgiven and forgotten by the next day. Someone said to me last week ‘What happens in the dog park stays in the dog park’. He was talking about dog’s behaviour, but I see a parallel. There are a lot of kind and clever people here.
I’ve breathed a lot of fresh air, learned a lot of things and met a lot of people in this park. Annie and I turn up every day, and hate missing even one episode. It seems that nothing is off-limits for discussion, and honest opinions can be aired. It must be healthy. Maybe it’s this particular setting, slightly apart from real life – a parallel universe.
Originally posted 05/02/2014