Inspired by a post and video of Laurie's, I took Jack to the local dog park on Wednesday morning just before lunch.
Jack is an only dog and hasn't spent much time with other dogs since he was just a six or eight week old pup. I decided we should venture to the park during a weekday morning after school started in the hope that we would be alone for his first visit. My plan was partially successful.
The local dog park is a nice one, with lovely large trees all around the edges and new ones planted here and there with benches tucked underneath. It is split into two areas, one for dogs under 30 pounds and one for dogs over 30 pounds. I parked the car in the parking lot of the neighboring people park and walked underneath a canopy of trees and across a lovely little bridge carrying Jack's wriggly 17 pounds under my arm. I thought we'd check out the small dog part first, so I opened the gate and we walked into a fenced area of longish lawn with a bench in one corner and a water spigot in the middle on a square of concrete, complete with dog bowls, poo bag dispensers and a trash can. Jack sniffed around and ran the perimeter of the fence before making a beeline for me. He sat on his haunches and looked up at me, ready to go. The small dog area is not very exciting.
We ambled into the large dog area with no one in sight. My car had been the only vehicle in the parking lot and I assumed we were alone. You know what happens when you assume . . .
The grass was much longer here, some of it almost as tall as Jack with most of it grazing his belly. After checking out the water faucet with much larger bowls, Jack ran to the nearest tree, nose to the ground. I'm sure he was smelling all of the dogs who had come here before him. I noticed a couple of nylon leashes hanging on the chain link fence, but didn't think much of them because we'd seen all kinds of dog paraphernalia left for visitors' use. Jack took off for the center of the park and I followed. The park is built on a gentle slope with its highest end at the entrance. At the back beyond the fence is a large pond that backs up to the walking paths in the people park. It's really a very pretty spot. As the pond came into view, I saw a man and a woman walking towards us from near the water. As they got closer, I saw the two dogs.
They were large dogs (compared to Jack, anyway), one black and one buff in color. Jack saw them and he was gone, running at top speed across the park in an intercept course. As he closed in, I think he realized that he was not only outnumbered but seriously outsized. As I watched he made an abrupt course correction, taking off for the fence. He was too late. They had seen him and quite quickly they were in pursuit.
I ran but there was no way I was going to catch him in time. The man ran for his dogs, yelling their names. I yelled for Jack. They all ignored us. Watching them run along the fence, I was quite impressed. Both dogs were twice Jack's size but he is very quick. When they would get close, Jack would lay on a bit of extra speed, like a sprinter at the end of the race he's just about to win. It was a beautiful sight, even though I couldn't quite enjoy it at the time.
Finally it occurred to me that I should give Jack a command and get him to come my way. I summoned my loudest voice from the bottom of my diaphragm, yelling, "Jack, come!" Much to my surprise, he barrelled toward me, floppy ears flying with his speed. He never slowed down, taking to the air at the last moment and flying up into my arms. He was wet even though it was midday, and I realized it wasn't dew but saliva. He had large tongue marks on the rear of his body where he'd almost been caught.
Turns out the other dogs were Chinese Shar-Peis, very handsome dogs. The other owner called to his dogs and walked toward me, laughing. At the time I did not find the situation amusing in the least. After comforting him, I sat Jack down at my feet, holding onto his collar, talking to the other owner. The dogs were all panting from effort and smelling of each other. The female was more aggressive, sniffing Jack and circling behind him. The male stayed in front just out of reach. I've never seen Jack so excited or so nervous. He kept turning to keep them both in front of him, but they kept moving, until Jack finally backed his rear end into me and sat on my foot.
Before it was over, Jack was playing, chest down, rear in the air, bouncing up and down and making friendly noises. After the other dogs left, Jack and I walked the rest of the park to let him calm down. I carried him to the car and he slept all the way home, exhausted from the experience. We went back today and Jack was so excited I could barely hold him as we went across the bridge. Next time, I'll have to take his leash for the walk in.
I do think he was a bit disappointed when we found the park deserted. Maybe his friends will be there the next time.