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Free Therapy in Dog Parks

Since I normally pound away at government and politicians on this blog, it is a refreshing change to praise one of the rare success stories of local governments, the dog park. Whose idea was it originally, where did it get started, and how did it achieve critical mass?

Dog parks are almost as big a success for people as they are for dogs. How much friendly interaction (between strangers) is there in the average public setting, such as the city park, festivals, restaurants and bars, etc.? Even "fellow" hikers on a hiking trail can be neutral or icy to each other. In a dog park the human owners trust each other and give compliments to the other owners for the appearance and comportment of their dogs.

Coffee Girl just finished up a workout at a dog park south of Tucson. This is the third time we've been there, so it almost saddens me to leave the area. It is the best dog park I have seen yet; I'm not referring to the physical facility. It's the critical mass of participants that matters. Perhaps this results from the sheer number of snowbirds in the area. Once I stayed there most of the day because it was such a good time. 

But it's more serious than just having fun. Modern life for dogs can be very stressful with the shots and inoculations, confinement behind chain link fences, leash laws, etc. They are adaptable animals, but still...

They get all bottled up with tensions that climb to toxic levels. They need an internal cleansing, a catharsis, which Aristotle defined as a violent expurgation of the soul. A catharsis for canines means getting in touch with their Inner Wolf...

 ...and what an aura a dog comes away with, after a session at the dog park! As a rule dogs don't exude relaxation the way that cats do; but their behavior after a workout at the dog park might be the exception.

During her workout I kept giggling at a ridiculous image that perhaps somebody should make a cartoon or comedy skit out of: the dogs and their owners come through the gate into the dog park; the dogs stand around sedately while the humans immediately pounce on the fresh meat -- the other human -- who comes in. They wrestle and thrash each other with complete abandon. One man is brave enough to mount an especially saucy wench, who breaks free and starts biting him in the throat.

A frequent visitor might start to categorize the humans. (Please, no sermons against stereotyping. If dogs come in distinct breeds, why shouldn't humans?) For example there is the over-protective mommy type. Or consider the control freak: this is typically the owner of a serious hunting dog. The poor dog has no fun at all in the park; he either doesn't know how to play or isn't allowed to. But there are individual hunting dogs that can put work aside and act like one of the pack.

Not surprisingly, I am one of the lax owner types who allows his dog to misbehave as long as she's having fun and isn't doing (serious) harm to another dog, other than gnawing on its shoulder as it tries to escape. More times than not, Coffee Girl is the agent provocateur for interaction that turns to mayhem. Other owners are grateful to her for making "it" happen.

Is there anything about these wonderful experiences at the dog park that can be generalized or adapted to human-human interaction?


Bob said…
Sounds like fun!
Jimbo said…
Love your explanation of the humans at the dog park. Very funny!
Anonymous said…
dogs are fun