Running With The Big Dogs
miniature poodle, Jack,
is humping Bowser, a German Shepard the size of a Harley-Davidson
I’m mortified and yet oddly proud of his moxie. All 13 pounds of his
white body are wrapped around Bowser’s hind leg and he’s bouncing like
not amused, nor is
his owner, Bob, who waves an empty poop bag in Jack’s face and shouts
Jack doesn’t even break stride. Bowser gives Bob a mournful look and
leg, swinging Jack in the air like a hairy banner. When the leg goes
is still attached, intent on his mission to show Bowser who’s boss.
time I get close
enough to intervene, Jack is through. He swings away to play with a
Sheltie and Bowser leans dejectedly against Bob. I mumble an apology.
happens,” Bob says,
shrugging. He clips on Bowser’s leash and they walk slowly out the
day at the dog
park and already we’re making friends.
before we arrived. I have a wad of plastic
bags for scooping poop, a bottle of water, a
folding water dish
and a leash to put on Jack if he gets rowdy. Rowdier. There’s a doggy
kit tucked away in the car in case Jack gets bitten and, forewarned of
I’m wearing work-boots and old jeans.
in my pocket is a
list of dog-park do’s and don’ts compiled from various Websites. It’s
page long, single-spaced, and, to a neurotic first-time owner, more
little intimidating. I’m particularly concerned by rule number three -
bring children into the enclosure, occasionally dogs mistake them for
and by rule number seven – don’t run, it can trigger a dog’s hunting
I’ve only been here ten minutes and already I’ve broken rule number two
your dog under voice control at all times. My stomach is growling and
regretting number eleven – don’t bring food.
off-leash park is
divided into two sections, one for small dogs and one for large. Not
a Golden Retriever broke a small dog’s neck in a play session that went
creating a clamor for segregation. Jack belongs in the small-dog area
was empty when we arrived. He could see the big dogs playing on the
of the fence and whimpered so pitifully that I let him join in. I was
that he’d be someone’s breakfast, but he’s managing fine. He and the
have teamed up and are chasing an affable black Lab.
smiling and introduce themselves. The Sheltie is Kate’s; they have the
perky demeanor. Rhonda, shorter and wider, owns the Lab.
fast. Look at him,”
Kate says of Jack. “He’s having the time of his life.”
being kind to him,
I think. Yours looks like she could run all day,” I say.
Rhonda says. The
Lab plops at her feet, tongue lolling. “Look at you,” she says. “You’re
Kate is an
nurse and Rhonda a bookkeeper. They’ve been meeting at the park twice a
for more than a year to let their dogs socialize and burn off energy.
home and he’s quiet
for the rest of the day,” Rhonda says, prodding Max with the toe of her
“Hey, you. Get up and run.”
place is great,” Kate
says. “My dog gets to play. I get to talk. All that’s missing is the
and Rhonda are
cheerfully sipping from travel mugs and I make a mental note that hot
do not constitute food under rule eleven. It’s cold and I would kill
for a cup
I ask if
it was alright that
I’d let Jack into the big-dog enclosure and they nod.
doing fine,” Kate
says. “You just have to keep an eye out.”
can shift pretty
fast in here,” Rhonda adds.
finishes, two Huskies
burst through the front gate. They’re big. I mean, they’re really big.
looks like a puppy next to them and Jack looks like a jelly bean. The
sniff the other dogs then take prodigious leaks on a spindly tree that
seem to have much of a future. They nose the smaller dogs again and
at our feet.
of the two looks
up at me and our eyes lock. Too late I remember that rule number ten is
about this being a bad idea. Before I can blink his paws are on my
and we’re standing face to face. He has shiny wet eyes and ridiculously
sweeps him off.
I’m left with a faint whiff of doggie breath and the distinct
having been spared.
knows better than
that,” the owner says.
I say “no
intend to, but my voice doesn’t seem to be working. It comes out more
Boxer streaks by
and he and the Huskies start wrestling. It’s friendly enough play but
distinctly rougher than we’ve been seeing. The Sheltie and Max go off
corner and Jack feigns interest in a tuft of grass.
this is my cue to
take us home. I whistle and Jack comes running. Rhonda and Kate wave as
away. Jack is looking embarrassed about being afraid of the Huskies but
as we pass through the gate he perks up. By the time we get to the car
high-stepping like his old self.
passenger’s seat and sits there grinning like a muddy gargoyle. He
well, like a dog, and he looks eminently satisfied with himself. After
and a brushing he’ll be a clean white lap dog again, but, tonight,
in his sleep and dream about running with the big dogs.
Jane Peach and Jack live in San Jose, CA.