So I cannot for the life of me figure out why people who seem to care about their dogs take their dogs to this particular not-a-dog park and let them off of the leash. Certainly some of these dogs are well-trained dogs who stay with or return to their people when called. Others are old dogs who are simply happy for another opportunity to walk through the grass or snow in their bare paws, with a little tree sniffing thrown in for good measure. But many of the dogs, most of the dogs that I encounter when we are at this not-a-dog park are not well trained. They do not obey their people when called. This isn’t particularly surprising when their people don’t sound much like they mean it: “And then I said…. Hang on. Ziggy. Ziggy, no… He never listens. Anyway, so I said…. Ziggy, I said no. Honestly, he’s terrible.” So I am not surprised, nor should they be (though they always seem to be), when their dogs also do not come when it actually matters.
The reason dog parks were created are very good ones. Dogs need space to run and play. People who own dogs do not always have access to a private, spacious area for that to happen. Dogs do not always come when called, so a safe, enclosed environment is a good way to ensure that dogs don’t disappear into the city streets or under the wheels of passing vehicles. General parks, those not specific to dogs, were designed with people in mind. General parks, not-dog parks, belong to an entirely different category of park. Most people who go to not-dog parks do so because they don’t want to be in dog parks. This is true even of some people who have dogs.
By now fluffy Frank had zoomed around us in two circles. Téa was doing her very best not to get into trouble, but I could hear the bizarre squeaking noise she makes when she’s overly excited starting in her throat. And Toni, who forgot she was on a leash, made a move to chase fluffy Frank, yanking all three of us about 10 feet to the side. All the while, this woman, this person responsible for fluffy Frank’s well-being, never even picked up her pace from a casual walk. Fluffy Frank had now made about six circles around us and I repeated, “My dogs are not both friendly.” And she started in with the, “Frank. Come. Come on, Frank. Oh, you’re such a jerk. Frank. Back on the leash for you after this.” Except it wasn’t because fluffy Frank continued to prance and dance and bounce around just out of her reach, which made it clear that this was a regular game for them. She got a hand on Frank eventually, at which point I felt safe to turn my back on her and move away, only to have Frank make another pass around us. All the while she was like a broken record, “Frank. Bad. Come on, Frank.” I kid you not, this happened two more times.
Finally, I pointedly reminded her, “This is not a dog park, you know.” And because I know people are most motivated by the things that affect them, I added, “You could get fined $500.” She just stared at me blankly, which allowed me to realize that somehow she thought I was the one who was out of line. (I’m still trying to figure out how that could be the case.)
After she left, the woman with the Sharpeis came up—at a respectful distance. “That was despicable,” she said. I liked her already because she used the word despicable. “People do that at this park all the time. And then you’re the one who gets pulled around by your dogs, and your dogs are the ones who get in trouble because you’re trying to control them in a situation that they shouldn’t be in anyway. It happens all the time. I’m going home to call the police. You should, too.”
I didn’t call the police, at least not this time. It was over, and fluffy Frank and his careless lady had already gone home. All we had wanted to do was go to the park; not the dog park, because that’s not the kind of park we like, and yet somehow that’s where we ended up.