Dog Park Chaos

This is an observation post. No life lesson here.

First of all- I love the dog park. It may be the happiest place on earth. If you are wondering why I feel this way I suggest you stop reading and do some serious soul searching about your dislike of dogs, and ultimately, yourself.

However, there is a dog park phenomenon that happens once every 6 or 7 trips: two or more dogs bark loudly at each other and growl.  You may be correctly thinking to yourself- yea, of course, they’re dogs. But this phenomenon is not about the dogs at all. It’s about people’s ABSURD reactions. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, the aftermath of a “dog altercation” looks like this:

Immediately, people from all corners of the park sprint to the scene. Several will be screaming “no. stop.” and “JACKSON… you come HERE NOW” as if their dogs’ animal instincts will suddenly cease to exist.  If you are really lucky, you may see a man fall over himself, small children, and several other dogs while attempting to pull his dog out of the mix.  A woman is observed to be clutching her chest in horror, unable to mentally process the situation.

As quickly as this war breaks out, the dogs involved decide to call it a draw and go sniff separate parts of the ground. This can only be viewed as an escape from the shrill over-reactions of their owners. Because, after all, they are dogs.

Then the processing begins. People start petting their dogs saying out loud “I know that must have been sooo scary…” and “you got startled by that other big dog, didn’t you…” This is a passive aggressive way of saying to other dog owners “your dog did it. 100 percent. no question.”

A man gathering himself begins a more direct dialogue with the guy next to him “Did anyone even see what happened here?” Please, I think. You don’t have to do this.  It’s over, man.  Unfortunately, several women take the bait and chime in. There begins to be a small debate about which dog started all the racket. We are now 15-20 minutes beyond the incident in question. The dogs involved are sniffing each other and prancing around their concerned owners who remain huddled and defensive.

At this point I try to remain far enough away from the conversation that I can block out the debate about “what went down” however it doesn’t always work. Sound travels.  Two women appear convinced it was actually “the smaller dog over there” that was feeling “too cornered” and began to want space but the larger brown dog “didn’t really read the warning signs and kept trying to play too aggressively.” The hand gestures really reinforce how emphatically people believe it couldn’t have been THEIR dog that started it all.  I mean, “Wishbone doesn’t communicate like that. He’s just so passive…”

We are now approaching the 40 minute mark post dog fight. A woman is STILL clutching her chest and explaining to her friend how hard her heart is pounding. I begin to worry from afar that she will need medical attention. Several other people have attempted to be nonchalant about leaving the park with their dogs while also reporting loudly “I think that’s enough excitement for today…” The magical, carefree aura of the park dissipates with the heavy cloud of panic, blame, and horror that dogs are in fact, dogs.

 

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At what point does someone see themselves as an adult? Because I am 27 and still sometimes feel like it may never happen.  Oh man, 27.  That hurts.  I find the feeling mostly rears its’ ugly head in the midst of professional situations.  Mostly I treat these as “fake it till I make it” situations, but every once in a while I look around a table I am sitting at during a meeting at work and realize- holy crap, I work here. I’m not a teenager observing a potential career path.  I am not an intern writing a one page summary on what it means to be in a meeting.  This isn’t take your daughter to work day.  And at that point it usually becomes clear that my co-workers have been staring at me for an unknown length of time as I consider all of this.  Perfection.

Then there comes the birthdays.  I don’t like to admit I am one of those people who freaks out about their birthday and what it means to get older but, guilty.  I’d rather be one of those self-assured people who say “I feel good about 29.”  Hold it, let me be more clear, I DON’T want to be one of those people.  29 is a horrific number.  It is visually unappealing and just lingers on the sidelines of what it really wants to be, which is obviously 30.  You get my point, I would like to be able to look on the bright side of these passages of time.  Instead, I just focus on what I didn’t get done that seemingly everyone else has accomplished.  That, and dying.  Every birthday I think about dying.  This can NOT be normal.  I feel like everyone else is celebrating their current life on their birthdays, while I am worried about getting run over and perishing on my way to the celebration as some type of tragic karmic event.

I have realized that I don’t think it really has anything to do with the number itself, but rather my ridiculous habit of comparing myself to people my age who I consider “real grown ups.”  You know who I’m talking about. They are your twenty-something friends who have every part of their lives together.  They know how to bake things and what is appropriate to bring to parties and they are always, always dressed perfectly.  They share healthy recipes and make recommendations about where to spend saturday mornings.  I spend saturday mornings in my bed. Sleeping.  Seriously, I consider it successful if I have left the house before 11 am.  There was a farmer’s market near my boyfriend’s old apartment and it ran on Saturdays and Sundays until 12 pm.  Let’s put it this way- we made it there twice.  And during both times, we congratulated each other and felt proud about our grand achievement.  “Look at us!  We are so productive!” we’d say.  If only I could feel that proud the one time a year I’m supposed to be thrilled to be alive.  Maybe it’s because I’ve never gotten delicious farm grown organic peaches before 12 pm on my birthday.

Recently at the Starbucks closest to our apartment (I specify since I frequent multiple ‘bucks locations and will most likely mention them later on), I made a horrific and disturbing discovery.  Weirdly enough, I make most of my disturbing discoveries while at Starbucks.  This one was bad.  It was worse than my original discovery of the Starbucks murderer.  It came in the form of an oversized stroller.

As I am minding my business waiting in line for my latte with my boyfriend, I notice a couple in front of us.  Two young, fit parents mulling over the posted calories and deciding what pastries to order.  I look around to see if anyone is seeing what I’m seeing.  A member of NASA on a space station would notice this couple. They had a stroller the size of a tractor-trailer.  It was one of those strollers with the car tire rubber wheels and multiple sitting areas that can only be described as separate rooms.  The thing was comparable to our apartment.  Unfortunately, the stroller was the least of my worries.  Sitting inside the stroller was an adolescent sized child.  The kid was huge.  He was easily 13 and fully functioning- I made sure before I poked my boyfriend in the ribs. “Hey, look at this,” I whispered.  He rightfully sensed something inappropriate about to come out of my mouth and quickly said “shh.”

“Look at the SIZE of that kid in there. I can’t believe that kid is still in a stroller!”

“Shhh, they are right in front of us, they can hear.”

“There is NO WAY they can hear me I am whispering. Will you just look?”

“Yeah, I saw, the kid is big.”

“Too big,” I emphasized.

I thought about this for hours. Maybe even days.  After establishing the large child was fully capable of walking and had reached all developmental milestones required for a 13 year old, I felt fully entitled to continue my inner monologue about the insanity.  Why would the parents not encourage the child to walk?  The kid was barely able to fit in the apartment sized stroller- isn’t that a sign? Is this why people hate Americans?  Are we obese because of prolonged stroller use? It got so complicated in my head I forced myself to abandon the topic entirely.

About a week later I was sitting at the same Starbucks. At this juncture you are perfectly within your rights to question my credibility based on clearly-too-much time spent in an overpriced coffee chain.  Anyway, the stroller rolls in.

“Oh God,” I think.  I don’t know if I’m strong enough for this again.

This time I get an even better look at this kid.  He knows exactly what he’s doing. Frankly I can’t blame him. If my parents were willing to push me around as an adolescent instead of me walking from museum to museum on my own two legs, damn right I’d take the ride.  I can almost sense the kid’s smugness about the whole thing.  He knows he is making quite the scene.  I immediately texted my boyfriend that there was a second sighting.  He was unenthused but threw me a courtesy “Really, wow.”

As the man child was rolled out of the coffee shop, I almost saluted him.  Well done, sir.  Well done.