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The New Dog Park

 

We discovered a new dog park practically around the corner from where we live. I don’t know how long it’s been in existence, but it can’t be long, because the grass is still green and the ground hasn’t been chewed up by little paws. There are two separate enclosures, one for the big dogs, and one for the Crickets. There’s a relatively new housing development nearby, so the dog park may have been part of the building contract, but so far people don’t seem to know about it, so every time we go Cricket is the only dog.

On her first visit to the dog park, Cricket performed a perimeter search, to check in with any other dog who may have visited there before her. She is very good at perimeter searches, and was happy to spend all of her time slowly sniffing. On her on her second visit, I walked with her along the fence line, and gently introduced her to the middle of the space. She even did a few running leaps across the grass. But her favorite thing to do was to wait until her humans were sitting on a bench, and then she’d crawl underneath and focus her search on that small area.

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The perimeter search

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“The grass tastes so good here!”

There’s a body of water next to the dog park that’s meant to add scenic views, but I’m not sure what to call it. It’s connected to the duck pond by underground pipes, and then runs out into the bay, eventually, somehow, but most of the time the water is more like slow moving sludge. Cricket is unimpressed.

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Outside the perimeter

For visit three I finally remembered to bring my camera, if only to prove that Cricket really doesn’t understand how a dog park is supposed to be used. We’ve been going after dinner, when the weather is more tolerable, but we never see other dogs. There was one guy walking along the path outside of the dog run, and two teenage boys trailing marijuana smoke, making Cricket search for an invisible skunk nearby, but other than that we were alone. Cricket checked the perimeter thoroughly, tasting the grass at various locations to make sure it was all just so. I found the skin of a yellow tennis ball on my own perimeter search, so it seems like someone must have been using the dog park for its stated purpose, at some point.

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“Someone peed here!”

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“And here!”

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But hopefully not over here.

 

In the parking lot next to the dog park, each time we’ve been there, there’s been a dog grooming truck. Thank god Cricket hasn’t recognized the picture of a perfectly coiffed poodle on the side of the van, or else we’d never get her out of the car.

We’ll have to go more often to get Cricket used to the purpose of a dog park. I tried to throw a tennis ball for her a few times, but she just looked confused. For such a contrarian of a dog, she was happy to have her leash snapped back on in order to leave the gated area.

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One last sniff of the grass before she leaves, of course

Supposedly there will be outdoor movies, and free concerts, on the piece of grass next to the dog park this summer, but we’ll see if anyone shows up. I think Cricket would like to go to a concert or two, but something tells me the humans might not be very happy to have her there. She likes to participate.

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“I’m ready!”

I Was Born To Be A Runner

I was born to be a runner, but something went wrong. My feet flattened. My knees swelled. My immune system weakened. My body was not put together right; like furniture from IKEA put together by someone who is not good at following directions. When I try to run, I feel like a bag of rocks being smacked against the pavement.

My dream used to be that I would build up from walking on the treadmill for an hour a day, to running on the treadmill, to running miles a day outdoors; in a park, maybe, or at the beach, with Chariots of Fire playing in the background. But I seem to be locked inside of this particular box, and no matter how hard I try to move it, it refuses to stay moved.

Whenever I see someone running in a movie, in dress shoes and overcoats, in tank tops and shorts, in leg braces or chased by police, I feel like I am running too. I watch sports, and dance, and movies, not just because it is entertaining to watch, or beautiful or dramatic, but because it is cathartic. Something deep within me is living in those bodies for a moment, kissing the love of my life, dancing with Fred Astaire, and running faster than I could ever imagine.

I feel this when I watch my dogs too. When I take them out to the backyard, I let go of Butterfly’s leash and let her gallop (she needs to gallop in order to poop, so this is a completely practical choice on my part). She lifts up off the ground and soars forward, and I feel her joy.

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I can’t let Cricket off leash, because if she sees a person, she will run, and bark, and lose her mind, and I won’t be able to interrupt the crazy. But Cricket loves to chase leaves, even on her leash. She is a huge fan of the wind, because it lifts up the leaves and makes them swirl, and she pulls me along behind her, to catch those leaves.

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When the dogs run, their ears fly out, and their legs stretch into the air, and they don’t run because I’m forcing them to get their exercise; they run for joy, automatically and without thinking about calories burned.

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In elementary school, we used to run a mile’s worth of laps around the gym to Eye of the Tiger from the movie Rocky. A dogged determination would come over me whenever I heard that song, to keep pushing myself forward until that mile was done.

But I want more than that. I want to run with my dogs until my ears fly like theirs do, and I am in no pain, and all I care about is catching that damned leaf up ahead.

(All pictures in this post taken by Naomi Mankowitz – AKA Grandma – and her magical DSLR camera)