Monday, August 22, 2011

Lessons From the Dog Park.

Over the past several months, Sue and I have developed an early morning routine that revolves around taking our dog, Roscoe, to the local dog park.  For those who have not met our pooch, we think he’s part Australian cattle dog with a little bit of German shepherd and a pinch of wild dingo thrown in for good measure.  He's a great watch dog and very protective. Although he looks a little intimidating when you first meet him, he’s very loving and sociable around people – but, until we started going to the dog park, he didn’t like other dogs all that much. (Now he tolerates them – as long as they leave him alone.) 

Besides being loving to his people, Roscoe excels at one thing – he can catch a Frisbee like nothing you’ve ever seen.  Like most herding dogs, he is full of energy and needs a task at all times.  As long as he gets in a good workout in the morning, he’s fine.  Since we’ve adopted Roscoe, I’ve developed a pretty good throwing arm.
The experience of getting up every morning to take Roscoe to the park has been good for all involved.  Roscoe is happy and healthy.  It helps me to start off my day with a little bit of exercise.  It gives Sue and me some time together every morning. But more important, being around a bunch of dogs every day is truly fascinating. 
Every dog knows his or her place in the pack.  There are definite rules of “engagement.”  Some dogs are more dominant.  Others are submissive.  Some love to play.  Others spend their time begging for treats.  Occasionally a fight breaks out - but they are resolved quickly - usually without human intervention.  Roscoe taught all the other dogs to stay away from his Frisbee and, through trial and error, they have learned.
But, of course, in addition to the canines, there are also dog owners at the park.  We, too, have formed a pack of our own.  We see each other every day and share our lives for 40 minutes each morning.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized that there are a lot of things you can learn from a dog park.
Here are a few musings, observations and rules I have gleaned from my daily sojourns:
1.      Everyone is equal at the dog park – it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, if you love dogs you belong.  We have store clerks, retirees, lawyers, engineers, and rabbis (yes – more than one) who join us on a regular basis.
2.      Everyone is responsible for their own mess (and those of their four legged friends).
3.      Dogs have a lot to teach us about how to play.
4.      Nature needs to take its course.  The pack will usually regulate itself – but sometimes you need to step in if it gets too rough.
5.      Bring water and share it with others.
6.      Check in on regulars who don’t show up.  If someone who usually comes misses several mornings in a row – they should get a phone call or at least a Facebook message.
7.     Dont worry about getting dirty.  When dogs show their love – it can be messy.
8.      You can learn a lot about a people by observing how they treat their pets.
9.      If you bring treats – you have to share them
10.  Everyone is happier when they’re not on a leash.
I think that some of these rules apply to other areas in our lives, don't you think?

1 comment:

  1. Lots of insights here and lessons for us. The wonderful thing about dogs is that they are devoted to us, love us, have learned how to "read" human behavior and adapt to our world. There is an old legend that a very long time ago the world was one single continent. As the land began to split apart, it so happened that dogs and humans became separated. Before the land moved forever apart, dogs jumped the breach to be with people. And now is a very good time for me to take Daisy for her morning walk. Cheers, Judy B