“What? Oh, her feet – yeah, she’s allergic to the grass, so I’m keeping her on leash.”
Bob’s hearing isn’t what it used to be. But we’re at the park, where it doesn’t matter. I’m happy to see him and his latest fluffy white pup.
It’s a Thursday morning. I bring my dogs here once a week, catching wisps of lingering sunrise and a congenial cluster of dogs and their people.
Technically, it’s not a Dog Park. We have to keep a weather eye out for the city’s Enforcer, who swoops in occasionally with a stern warning. But Gunner, Milo, and Bochie are blithely unaware. To them, this neighborhood gathering place is doggie Disneyland. Canine Cirque du Soleil.
Steve, the one-legged Viet Nam veteran, is the unrivaled ringmaster. Normally, he’s the first one there with a bottomless bag of mini biscuits hanging from the front of his walker. He knows every dog by name. The owners’ are hit or miss.
Most Thursdays, when I announce "It’s Park Day!" my graying dogs Buster and Bonnie react like they’ve just downed a straight shot of espresso. They tremble. Their cloudy eyes grow bright. Bonnie emits her signature squeal, which intensifies as we pull up to the curb. Buster, who’s been coming to this park for more than a decade, hops out, lured by competing enticements--snacks or last week’s pee-mail? After I leash Bonnie, she propels herself from the car, nearly dislocating my shoulder as she hurtles down the sidewalk to Steve.
This particular morning, though, Mike is walking Steve’s dog, Milo, along with his own. Apparently, Steve took a tumble. So several have rallied to care for his pet while he’s in the hospital for tests. We pull out our phones to note the room number and try to recall his last name.
Our eclectic community is linked almost exclusively by our love for dogs and, by association, one another. Jobs, family, health issues ebb and flow lightly in conversation. We don’t talk politics. Controversy is avoided or quickly diverted by a mess that needs attention. Even during the pandemic lockdowns, we would gather—safely distanced while our unconcerned pets sniffed each other intimately.
The drama in this microcosm is muted and mild. Linda saw a coyote last week. Johanna has a new dog treat recipe. The city is talking about removing the eucalyptus trees. “Box,” a small black dog —20 years old, blind, deaf, and senile—follows his nose around the park, his owner gently picking him up when it's time to leave. Karen stops by to say “hi.” She’s thinking about adopting another dog and what do we think about the new vet in town?
In a bit, I bundle my exhausted and happily slobbering dogs back in the car and head home.
It’s going to be a good day.