Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Of Dog Parks & Dimwits

The Paragon, The Flying Monkey, and The Cowardly Lion - ready to go to the dog park (cat butt photo bomb courtesy of The Diva) 
The weather here has been gorgeous lately, and I just can't seem to get enough of being outside.  (The previous few weeks, it has been gray and nasty, even though the temperatures have been in the forties and fifties, which I love, and I also know that the heat of summer, which lasts about eight months of the year here in Florida, is going to be here before I know it.)  So on Saturday morning, I suggested to my sister, K, that we take The Three Amigos (consisting of The Paragon, The Flying Monkey, and her Wheaten Terrier/Golden Retriever Mix, The Cowardly Lion) to the dog park.  

On the subject of dog parks in general, I am always a bit ambivalent.  I have, over the years, had more than a handful of "I can't believe I just witnessed this in real life ... surely I'm being Punk'd." moments.  Like the time, for example, that a twenty-something guy swaggered in with this poor, skinny little six or eight month pit bull on an honest-to-God chain  hooked on to some sort of home-made prong collar/choke chain thing.  I am not kidding ... it looked positively medieval.  Not to mention that taking a leashed dog (and I use that term loosely, shackled would have been a better word) into a big group of unleashed dogs is always a bad idea, anyway.  But that was not the worst part.  The worst part was that the poor dog was in heat, and this asshat (sorry, I have been trying, lately, to keep the four letter words to a minimum, but an asshat is exactly what this guy was; in fact, if Asshat were a country, he would be their Asshat King, or maybe their Asshat in Chief, and plus, it is technically six letters, so I'm letting it slide) had brought her there to, and I quote, "get her knocked up."  It was a head-desk moment to end all head-desk moments.  I can literally feel my blood pressure rising right now, and this was years ago.  

In any case, for this reason, and because of a dozen or so incidents in a similar vein (though that one did, then, and still does now, take the proverbial cake), I am always a little bit skeptical when I go to the dog park, wondering what craziness, poor judgment, or sheer idiocy I might encounter while there.  Suffice it to say, I don't go to the dog park all that often, probably two or three times a year, on average.  I hadn't been to this particular one, which is now the closest one to where I live since I moved back in July, for several years.  

This particular park is actually pretty nice, because it has three separate areas.  One really large area, a medium-sized area, and then a smaller area.  The medium-sized area is kind of a buffer zone / no-man's land between the large and the small area.  The small area is reserved, unofficially, for small dogs, although when we got there on Saturday, there were several small dogs in the large area, and since there weren't any really big dogs there, that seemed to be fine.  (The largest dog there was a Siberian Husky; most of the others larger dogs were about the size of The Cowardly Lion, which is to say, not terribly big.  (TCL weighs forty-three pounds or thereabouts.)

It seemed a little chaotic when we first got there, but the area is pretty large, and most of the chaos seemed to be at the far end, so as the middle, medium-sized, area was completely empty, we decided to go ahead on in.  The Paragon immediately started making the rounds, as he generally does in situations like these, while The Flying Monkey stuck close to me, and The Cowardly Lion tried to get up the nerve to play with the Sibe. He wanted to, but he is a bit cowardly, as you might imagine.  All was normal. 

Within five or ten minutes, though, things started to change. You know that feeling you get when something just isn't right?  Well, I had it.  About thirty feet away or so, a cluster of dogs had gathered around their humans (or some humans, anyway, whether theirs or someone else's) and one dog began relentlessly humping another while the other dogs nearby circled anxiously, and the people involved stood by and did absolutely nothing.  Well, that's not true.  They did worse than nothing.  They treated it like a sideshow.  Like entertainment.  They laughed and pointed and basically behaved as though they were completely oblivious of the tension that was brewing.  I didn't like it, and I definitely didn't want any of our dogs in the middle of it, so I suggested to K that we exit that area, go to the middle section, and just let our three dogs play amongst themselves.  

Which we did, and which they did, for fifteen or twenty minutes.  On the other side of the fence,  we watched a mild fight break out among the humper, the humpee, and the canine bystanders.  Fortunately, one or two of the human gawkers finally got it together and broke up the humpfest as well as the resultant altercation.  We were just about to leave, when a man came in to the middle area with his Australian Shepherd*.  K and I chatted with him a bit, and learned that his dog, I'll call him Rowdy, was a rescue, and a bit peculiar, something not out of the ordinary for this breed, which K and I know all too well, as we had one growing up.  

Frankly, though, it was not long into the conversation before I could tell (because I have known K since she was born, which is to say rather well, and I can pretty much tell exactly what she is thinking at all times) that K and I were thinking pretty much the same thing:  that it wasn't just the dog who was a bit peculiar. A suspicion which was borne out, and then some, when Rowdy's owner began calling the dogs on the other side of the fence over to the fence line so that ... wait for it ... Rowdy could chase them.  

And no, I am not kidding.  I wish.  Fence-fighting, as anyone who has ever dealt with it knows, is no joke, and this seemed, to me, a pretty darn good way to get one started.  Especially since Rowdy did not just want to chase the dog on the other side of the fence.  He wanted to bark and growl at it.  In fact, between the barking, the growling, and the very deliberate lie-downs, creep-ups, and intense stares, Rowdy looked very much like the classic picture of the herding dog he is whilst said dog is in the process of herding something.  Like, say, sheep.  Except dogs are not sheep, and the dogs on the other side of the fence did not very much want to be herded.  Nor did they want to be barked or growled at.  All of which poor Rowdy, his herding instinct now fully engaged, was oblivious to.  And which his not-so-intelligent owner was most definitely oblivious to.

All in all, it seemed a pretty darn good time to get out of there, which we did.  And I don't think we'll be going back anytime soon.  There are other places to take the dogs to run off-leash that aren't such a free for all.

What about you?  What is your opinion of dog parks?  

* Dog's name and breed changed to protect the not-so-intelligent owner of said dog.  I may also have changed the owner's gender.  


  1. Never been to a dog park....never wanna go to a dog park. Of course with our pack of 10, we have a dog park in our own backyard...and in our living room...in our bedroom....in our kitchen. Well, you get the picture. :)

  2. Great title.

    I'm a bit ambivalent about dog parks myself, and have witnessed my share of (usually human) idiocy when we've gone. (Though, admittedly, your story does indeed take the proverbial cake. You win.)

    I have 3 dogs and a big yard fenced-in yard, so we kind of make up our own dog park. But I like to take the pups out now and again so they can meet and socialize with other canines. Plus they're more inclined to play and run.

    But I agree with you. Dog parks are ok in moderation. I take in the scene carefully before I enter--and sometimes turn around and go right back home. And if something's fishy, we leave. As soon as I sense it.

    Great story--a topic worthy of continued conversation.

    --Woofs (and purrs) from Life with Dogs and Cats.