20th: The gestures of the body must be suited to the discourse you are upon.
TONIGHT on DVD
I'm a proud
SATURDAY IN THE PARK WITH SHEILA
12 September 2004
"Ive never seen so many kids in one place in my life," the woman said as she and her dog entered the dog park.
It was Saturday morning in the park.
There were several dozen soccer games going on, and a kick ball contest, and people in the swimming pool, and refreshment stands being set up, and joggers and bikers weaving their way through the pedistrians on the paths, and, of course, lots and lots of dogs.
Sheila loves mornings like this and reverts to pulling on the leash as soon as we get out of the car (a longer drive than usual, since our usual parking lot was full, so we had to go all the way around the park to get to the other one). She wants to sniff every kid, every dog, every food stand and as soon as we are within view of the dog park, she is beside herself with excitement.
There was only one dog when we arrived--Frisky, one of those large nondescript dogs whose lineage is hard to pinpoint, something between a German Shepherd and a shag mop. Frisky was with a young child who had plopped herself down on the grass to play a videogame while the dog wandered around the park (I dunno--Ive seen what goes on on that grass and Im not sure Id want to sit on it!). As soon as Sheila arrived, she and Frisky took off at top speed, and the child retreated to a camp chair outside the park fence.
Soon other dogs arrived--some were regulars, some were new to me. Jack is a bulldog who always astonishes me with his speed. That something so hefty could get such speed going is amazing. Its a testament to his youth and the fact that hes probably not being overfed on treats.
Sophie is a little fluffball whose favorite thing is running. I love it when Sophie comes because Sheilas herding instinct kicks in and this little thing that looks like a miniature sheep must awaken some ancestral genes in Sheilas brain and she immediately starts herding her, at top speed. I always marvel at the tight turns, missing huge trees that they are both running toward at top speed, tumbling over each other when they inadvertently collide. Sheila definitely gets her workout with Sophie.
There was a 4 month old Ridgeback puppy who was all feet and ears and eagerness. Sheila generally is very protective of puppies, being a Mom herself, I guess, and either wrestles gently or, more commonly, stands guard while the puppy plays with another dog, ever vigilant to make sure the puppy isn't being hurt--and nipping at the heels of anybody who appears to her to be playing too rough.
Dillon was new to us, and fairly new to the park (as well as new to his owner). Hes a large German Shepherd mix who hasnt (his owner says) "completely socialized" yet. Theyve only had him 3 weeks and while they want him to mix with other dogs, they are afraid that his size and temperament might be too much for the smaller dogs, so after a short while, Dillon was put on leash and led outside the fence, where he could look, but not touch.
Another white and copper colored dog came in, but was intimidated by the number of dogs and spent her time cowering in a corner. Her owner took her out and said that she had had a bad experience last week.
We are so like parents in this dog park!
Like parents, we stand there and compare notes about our dogs temperaments, habits, parentage, training problems, and mishaps at home.
We are all convinced that our dog has appointed him/herself as the guardian of the park, the greeter of all dogs, and the protector of those who are in the park.
Of course, the rest of them are all wrong. Sheila is the guardian of the park, the greeter of dogs, and protector of those who are in the park. I dont know why those other owners can't see that as clearly as I can.
It's interesting listening to the owners give commands to their dogs. Some say "come," some say "Here, [name]," one says "touch" (meaning the dog needs to come and be touched--this is one of the more obedient dogs in the park), and some give a long explanation to the dog about the advantages and disadvantages of coming versus continuing to play with his friends ("Come on over here. I'm ready to go. It's time for us to leave now. You can see your friends tomorrow." Now THAT's going to make sense to a dog!). Frisky's kid today, calling the dog to be put on leash said "Metal clip." That was a new one for me. He stood there holding the metal clip on the leash, calling his dog and shouting "Frisky! Metal Clip."
Some of us tell our dogs to "give me the ball," "some to "drop it," some to "drop" and one to "release."
We handle squabbles in different ways too. None of the dogs is particularly vicious, so I'm of the opinion that since these scuffles last only a few seconds, we should let the dogs sort them out themselves. Some people start yelling (which seems to make matters worse), some yell "Fluffy, you get away from that dog!" and some wade right in to grab the dog by the collar.
Afterwards there is always a human analysis of who started what, who is and isn't aggressive--and how unusual today's behavior was for their perfectly behaved dog, what dogs don't like each other, what dogs set each other off, and on and on until the dogs, who have long since gone back to playing together, start it all over again.
Before the park filled with dogs, when it was just Sheila and Frisky and they had reached a point of ignoring each other, both of whom more interested in the activity outside the park, than inside), I stood by the fence and watched the kids play soccer.
We were right by a field which must have been kindergartners. They were so incredibly cute, and, when the ball was in play, were like a pile of puppies in constant motion, all huddled together, a Gordian knot of arms and legs and somewhere in the middle a ball.
We finally left after about an hour. Sheila's tongue was hanging out a foot and she'd stopped chasing the fireball, Sophie. She readily came over when I got my own "metal clip" and we left the park. On the way we passed Jasmine and her owner headed toward the park. You never know how Jasmine and Sheila are going to get along, but they were both on leash and Sheila was exhausted, so they hardly paid attention to one another.
When I got near home, I discovered that the city has closed off the street to all traffic for several blocks, which meant I had to park on a side street (I avoided the street of the cranky neighbor) and which also means that I couldn't do any big grocery shopping, as I had intended to do (not in the 90 degree heat, having to haul a bunch of bags a block!), and also that Sean wasn't be able to get here to retrieve the 78s.
Curses. Foiled again.