One can hear it from a block away. The barking, the yips, the occasional growls, the shouts of dog owners. It is the dog park where for years my parents, siblings and I have taken our dogs: Old dogs, puppies, bored, eager, excited, lazy pets who have brightened and occasionally frustrated my growing up years. This was a place where our dogs could run to their heart’s content- or not. This was a sort of Eden for house-bound animals who yearned to stretch their legs, sniff their peers and prove that, sometimes, an acre of open space is worth more than obeying Master not to sit on the couch.
Once urban encroachment made it nearly impossible to just open our front door and let Fido run loose. Many of our neighbors thanked the City Fathers for allowing at least some open and free space where we could take our pets and let them run, or just sit and give off those wistful sighs only an aging pet with memories of carefree days could muster. There were trees, of course, their bark usually moistened by the leg-lifting of dozens of dogs daily. There were benches where we could sit, talk with our friends and neighbors and new people whose delight in finding this dog park we shared. There were two drinking fountains- one for homo erectus, that is, us humans; and a second, much lower, where dogs could lap up water after their romp through the grassy knolls and bushes circling this open space.
At one end of this park there was a little hut, just large enough to hold a sort-of guard, someone we chipped in and paid for, someone to monitor dogs, separate those who growled, handled some disputes that owners themselves could not solve, and, generally keep the snow shoveled in winter, and grass mowed and garbage emptied the rest of the year. Next to the hut was a dispenser of doggie-do bags, those plastic things into which one scooped the detritus of our pets so one could then dump them into the waiting receptacles.
Other than the physical appearance of this dog run, I can remember the perfect democracy this park featured: There was no bias against dogs of a different color, or size. AKC-registered dogs romped and yipped and barked and whined just like their fellow mutts. And we owners or dog-walkers and dog-sitters didn’t discriminate, but rather shared a common bond: a love for our animals and the pleasure of giving them some time to run and forget the odors of Pledge or Ajax or Glade that permeated their homes. More than anyone, perhaps even the dogs, we reveled in our shared joys or occasional heart-breaks. We were neither Republicans nor Democrats, neither liberals nor conservatives, not Jews nor gentiles. We were just appreciating a common ground- that dog park where everyone was equal.