There is a really nice dog park near my house complete with: poopie bags, waste receptacles, water bowls, shade and benches for the dog owners. They even have one side for little dogs and one side for big dogs. It’s kind of great.
I decided I was going to take my dog there over the weekend. We tried this once before (at a different dog park), when he was little, but it didn’t go well. Most of those dogs were about 75 pounds bigger than he was. They came charging at him to say hello. Sniffed his butt... and then considered using him as a chew toy. He was traumatized and we never went back.
But that was five years ago, and I hoped this dog park was going to be a better experience, so off we went.
For the most part it was a better experience. Unfortunately, my little dog wasn’t that interested in being in this lovely gated space with his own kind. He did follow around one dog (a male dachshund) who seemed to pee and poop his entire body weight during his visit. I think my dog was impressed by this little “waste management factory” on four legs. Other than that, my dog didn’t play with the other dogs and he looked kind of bored.
As I was observing the pecking order and social dynamics of the dog park, it occurred to me that a dog park is a bit of a metaphor of human social environments.
It falls somewhere between a playground and a singles bar… for dogs.
My dog is neutered, so he’s not that interested in “picking-up” girls, nor is he that interested in playing with other dogs. To him, the dog park is more like a “Mommy & Me” group to help him socialize with others. But since he's kind of a "momma's boy," he was mostly interested in hanging out with just me.
I would think he would love to be somewhere outside where he can run freely, but apparently it is more fun to run around on his own property, where he can get lost by squeezing through the hundreds of holes in our fences.
But it started me thinking about how hard it is to make “new friends.”
I would think all dogs want the same things: a playmate and the freedom to run off leash.
But maybe that’s more of a “big dog” thing? Maybe small dogs are just more insecure, so they don’t “bond” or “play” as nicely with other dogs? When we go for walks in the neighborhood, my dog acts like he owns the neighborhood. He barks at big dogs who aren't even looking in his direction, but he wants to remind them that he's the boss. Or at least, he thinks he is. Little dogs are often very bossy.
It makes me wonder… What kind of dog am I?
Ideally, I aspire to be a big Golden Labrador. Big enough to not get pushed around, but sweet enough that I can be trusted. Labs are kind of the perfect dog. They are loyal, cuddly, loving and protective, but they are not perceived as a threat. Their only shortcomings are that they shed and their tails tend to “sweep” coffee tables.
But I am probably not carefree enough to be a Labrador. They are loving creatures who have no “off” switch for play time. They are the party animals of dog breeds. They will keep playing until they drop.
I am a big fan of Bulldogs... particularly the English ones. Bulldogs get a bad rap as being unfriendly watchdogs. The truth is they are really adorable and loving. But they tend to be a little lazy and they sleep a lot, so I am probably not a Bulldog either.
I am too much of a work horse. Too much of a rule follower. Which probably makes me more of German Shepherd. Hyper-vigilant. Loyal. Intense.
Maybe there is an existential conflict in all us. What we want to be vs. what we are?
For what it's worth, my little dog thinks he's a Rottweiler.