Dog Park RelationshipsBy Allen and Linda Anderson
It is a delight to take your dog to the dog park where all sorts of people mix with a variety of dogs.This often causes the most interesting moments, collaborations, alliances, and spiritual growthexperiences. It’s been our experience that closer relationships between humans and dogs develop at thedog park.One recent afternoon we were rushed and had little time to spare. Yet weknew our black cocker spaniel, Leaf, needed at least a short time to get someexercise. We raced over to his favorite play place — the dog park.This time, we forgot Leaf’s favorite red and white rubber ball. He loves tochase, catch, and bring it back to us. Assuming a ball is just a ball, we thought itwould be okay to throw old tennis balls that were lying around in the park. Thisone change would turn out to bring about an enlightening experience for us all.Over the past few months, as we’ve gotten into our routine visits to the dog park, we would always bring Leaf’s favorite ball to throw for him. He had picked out these balls at pet supply stores. It wasamusing to watch his focus on the checkout process, keeping an eye on his new possession as it went intothe shopping bag.In the car on the way home, he would tear into the bag to retrieve the new ball. He knew it belonged tohim. At the dog park, acting more characteristically like a retriever than a cocker spaniel, Leaf wouldchase the toy and drop it at our feet for another throw.Even after letting it go long enough to have a good run, Leaf remained very protective of HIS ball.He’d tightly grip it in his mouth and run around to the dogs, making sure they all saw that this was hisown special bouncy toy. It seemed to us that some of the other dogs were jealous and wanted to takeLeaf’s new red and black ball away from him.Sometimes he would tempt the dogs by quickly dropping his ball in front of them. But he was alwaystoo fast and grabbed it away before the dogs could take it. He’d run off, looking over his shoulders at theless fortunate dogs who were too slow to keep up with him.When Leaf played with his personal ball, he seemed to have less fun. There was always the underlyingconcern that he’d lose his property. He took pride in owning something that the other dogs could not have.
Dog Park Without Leaf’s Ball
This day, when as we arrived at the dog park without Leaf’s ball, the entire experience took on adifferent tone that brimmed with spiritual significance. Leaf was about to learn one of the toughestlessons on the path to enlightenment — detachment.At first, he looked impatiently, staring and waiting for us to throw his ball. We showed him our emptyhands and pockets. We said, “No ball today! Go play with the other dogs.” So Leaf, deprived of hisnormal routine, resigned himself to finding something else to do.