If everyone had a puppy, and took that puppy to a dog park once a week, I think our country would be a much happier place. My family’s bouncy tri-color collie Luna came to DC to visit this weekend (and she brought the parents). Unfortunately, I didn’t get the pleasure of keeping her since I live in a boxy apartment. Instead, she got to spend the weekend at my brother’s luxurious suburban house which has an expansive backyard full of grass to pee on and nooks to explore. On Saturday I biked up to his house to take her for a walk while he was at work.
When I walked into the living room there were two largely inanimate objects: one pooch lying by the table, and one undergraduate comatose on the couch. But the pooch looked up as I approached. When Luna recognized me she lifted her paw in indication that I should approach and wriggled in my direction without fully getting up. I rolled her on her back and gave her a belly rub while she nibbled on the sleeve of my Northface and growled her pleasure at me.
Then I threw on her leash and we were off. My brother had told me about a nearby dog park, so after dodging some impatient suburban traffic we made it to Chain Bridge Street. Following my brother’s directions we walked along the narrow road. Up here was wealth. Modern architecture with sweeping staircases visible through glass walls, classical columns, gates and arches and cars covered with canvas (because they were too nice for the rain, I suppose). The edifices seemed more estate-like than house-like, but they were all oddly squashed together. I began to doubt a little bit. I couldn’t image these elite would permit something as uncouth as a dog park amongst their gardens. But sure enough, after a few minutes walking there came in opening in the houses. There was a patch of woods, and a small path that led to a field, just as my brother described. The path led to a field which tumbled away down a steep hill, and at the bottom, in a wide glade, was one tree, several benches, a handful of cars, and several people standing around. And of course, the dogs. Over a dozen of them.
Luna began straining at the leash so after we were about halfway down the hill I released her and she bobbed off ahead to play. There was an Australian sheepdog, almost collie-like, that ran so smoothly that it seemed to glide. There were a couple of rangy mutts, a black Labrador that was obsessed with chasing the tennis ball its owner was throwing for it, a bulldog, a teeny little wiener dog that was utterly outclassed by the canines around it, but didn’t seem overly upset about that fact, and a little Pomeranian named Peanut that enjoyed climbing up on the park tables and getting scratched around the ears.
But the Pomeranian wasn’t the only dog that got in on the tables. One massive labradoodle named Kayak, that had the booming bark of the Great Dane from 101 Dalmatians, also hopped up on a picnic table. A second labradooble reared up and did it’s mightiest to get Kayak to come down from his lofty perch and play. There was also a Canoe that stayed close to her owner and largely avoided the rollicking pack of dog—a wide shouldered friendly brown and black dog that climbed up on the table I was sitting on and plopped herself down next to me, availing herself to a back scratch. And as I sat on a picnic table an elderly bulldog in a red sweater slowly ambled beneath the bench my feet were resting on.
Luna, at about eight months, didn’t quite have the speed or agility to keep up with the big adult dogs even if she was now as big as almost all of them. Instead she contented herself with prancing in the slipstream of the other big dogs and bouncing playfully in front of the smaller dogs to get them to run with her. Every five minutes or so she’d come and check in with me, give me a quick nuzzle, and trot off to smell another odiferous rump.
After we’d been there for about forty minutes I saw a sight I’d never seen. A sliver Acura with a spoiler was rumbling down the road into the parking lot, and, booming out of one window, a white, half border-collie, half eskimo dog, announced his approach from a couple of hundred yards away. His owner drove quickly to the edge of the lot, as if he was prepared for what his dog was about to do. And sure enough, the dog was so ready to get in on the action he stopped his booming before the car even came to a complete stop and hurled himself out the window and into the swirling pack.
Eventually, Luna was exhausted and by mutual agreement we started edging away and back up the hill. She had enough pep left to try to race me up the hill. As we left the woods two cardinals flashed low in front of us. They say all dogs go to heaven. But not all dogs get to go to the Chain Park Dog Park. And that is a shame, because a muddy dog is a happy dog. The funny thing was, at the end of the day, I might have had even more fun than Luna did.