I’ve never been a fan of dog parks. I’ve heard so many stories of dogs running wildly as their owners sat at picnic tables reading their books. I’ve even seen a few stories of little dogs being attacked by big dogs while their owners were talking on their cell phones… owners totally oblivious to what was happening 50 feet away. So, it was with some trepidation that I took my two dogs, Lovey and Charlotte, to a dog park in January.
As I drove up to the park, the first thing I noticed was that there were actually people walking the paths with their unleashed dogs. These dogs weren’t on their own running wildly throughout the vast park. These unleashed dogs were being watched very closely by their people to make sure they weren’t running too far away and getting into trouble. Balls were being thrown and retrieved, dogs were sniffing each others’ butts and owners were sharing stories of how their “little” shelter dogs actually got a lot bigger than what they were previously told. So, as I unleashed Lovey and Charlotte and watched as they started sniffing the ground and then of course a few dog butts, I knew that I had a change of heart about dog parks. This was going to be fun.
I’ve been back to this dog park many times with my dogs. I’ve discovered that I have to be careful not to say the words “dog park” too soon in the trip out there or Lovey will cry and whine…so great is her excitement. I’ve also learned to bring several poop bags along as the digestive tracts of my dogs work overtime when they sniff all of the pungent aromas throughout the park. So strong is the power of suggestion.
The other wonderful thing I’ve discovered at this dog park, is the amazing array of “dog emotions” that I feel with each visit. I occasionally will hear a few individual dog voices, but most of the time I’m just confronted with a very powerful and clear kaleidoscope of excitement and wonder. At first I tried to understand what the dogs were saying to each other, but quickly became overwhelmed with the sheer magnitude of feeling. So, I decided to simply listen and enjoy the “energy” I was feeling without trying to figure out what was being said. Once I relaxed and allowed the feelings and emotions flow and surround me, I found that I was filled with an indescribable joy and curiosity. There’s nothing complicated about dog emotions. They flow freely and easily from these creatures. In fact, I find it hard to soak them all up sometimes. Of course not all of these emotions are positive in nature. Some are filled with fear and uncertainty. Dogs who are shy or scared or who lack good socialization skills, will approach the park tentatively, always with an eye out for danger. Their intense feelings leak out of their pores at a mile a minute and fill the air with an “odor” that’s quickly picked up by nearby dogs. This “odor” tells a story. It says “I’m scared…please don’t hurt me…I won’t hurt you…you can be in charge.” As the bolder dogs approach the frightened dog, the language and conversation changes. All of a sudden the rabid sniffing becomes gentler, the emotions slow down and the atmosphere is quieter. Once the new dog has been sniffed and deemed okay, the emotional temperature returns to its original level and the play goes on.
Of course there are exceptions to the emotions and actions of the many dogs in this park. I could spend hours writing about the variety of dog feelings that surround me as I walk along the paths. Sometimes an emotion is so strong, I think I can reach out and touch it with my hands. Other times it floats past me much like a thought that enters my consciousness and then is gone before I can categorize it. And the harder I try to bring it back, the more fleeting the emotion becomes.
The strongest and most prevalent dog emotion that floats around the dog park, is without a doubt something that I like to call ecstatic, unadulterated glee. Anyone who spends time watching dog park dogs run and play or sniff and dig will bear witness to this phenomena. It’s like being intensely hungry and discovering that instead of having to eat leftovers for supper all by yourself, you’ve been invited to an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord with your friends. The thought of seeing and tasting a wide variety of delicious foods and then sharing the meal with your friends, fills your heart with happiness.
I’ll continue to take Charlotte and Lovey to the dog park. I’ll also continue to calmly accept and acknowledge all of the emotions that live on this patch of land. Now that I know that I’m not there to understand and analyze the information coming at me, I can relax and enjoy being in the park with my furry critters. I can also participate in this wonderful feeling of pure, unadulterated ecstatic joy.
Blessings to you and your own furry critters.