Saturday, September 25, 2010

So there are dog parks, and then there are DOG PARKS ...

I know I've written about our adventures at the dog park before ... but believe me when I say that not all dog parks are created equally.

So my little Garden Grove dog park is great. I mean, besides the fact that I seem to get hurt every time I go there ... It's a great place to take the dogs for an hour, play some ball, and then go home. It's not very big, and at most, I've only seen 7-8 dogs in the big dog park at a time - but it's easy, clean, and convenient. Sure, there are giant holes void of dirt where dogs have had a digging party, and where I consequently twisted my ankle the afternoon before show - but still. As a tax payer, I'm glad it's there. We don't have much in Garden Grove, but doggoneit, we have a dog park!

[it's called the Barking Lot!]

[long-story short: I stupidly attempted to stop a pack of 6 huge dogs from chasing a tiny, white yippy thing last week. I lost. Oh Barking Lot, why must you hurt me so?]

But today ... today I decided we needed a change. Hagrid and Hermione, while completely kind, happy, sociable dogs, are not ... playful. I don't know if it's because they never learned how to play (you have to remember, they have 5 and 3 years of history that I don't know anything about), or that they just like each other better than any other dog that's come along. But they do not "play" with other dogs ... that wrestling, running, jumping, pouncing thing that normal dogs usually partake in with each other - yeah. No. 

The irony of this, is that when they simply *see* another dog in a vicinity they could potentially get to, they will LUNGE with the power of Thor to get to this new dog - one morning on a walk, they almost knocked my step mother over with their crazed enthusiasm. They pull, struggle, and barge their way over to the other dog ... and then, just when you think they're going to pounce, they stop, smell the strange dog's nether regions for about 10 seconds ... and THEN - 

They're done. That's it. Like nothing ever happened. 

At the dog park, when they're off leash, this usually results in the two of them (and any other dog that might be in pen) running along the fence, following any new dog and owner as they approach the entrance. They run and bark and wag their tail, completely enamored. The other dog comes in - they smell - and then they trot away. WHAT?? And I'd like them to play with other dogs - don't get me wrong - I'm grateful for who they are. I'm grateful that they don't maul other dogs, or get too rough. I'm REALLY grateful that they're generally so charming, and that people think they're sweet. But still. When one takes their canine forever friend to the dog park, one anticipates their furry pal to frolic and play with others of their species. 

So today I thought, "Maybe they just don't care for the dogs at the Garden Grove park. Maybe it's like kids at school; they just don't gel with these dogs! Yeah, they just need new friends! I'll try a new park!"

And so I researched. Yes, that's right - I researched dog parks. Don't laugh - there are 10 (ten!!) in Orange County. On a Friday afternoon at 5:00 p.m. - well, half of them were immediately tossed out for being too far away. I narrowed it down to the two others I could get to easily, using surface streets: The Huntington Beach Dog Park, and the Arbor Dog Park in Seal Beach. I had heard some iffy things about the folks at the HB Park (and apparently, it's laden with wood chips, rather than grass), and so to Seal Beach we went. 

Let me put it this way: The Arbor Park compared with the GG Park, is like comparing Disneyland to a Kindergarten play ground. It was doggie wonderland! 2 acres of grass with shady trees, and the dogs! Oh the dogs, dogs, dogs, DOGS! There must have been close to 50 running around, of all shapes, sizes, and breeds. Big dogs, little dogs playing together in intense grassland bliss! Most of the mommies and daddies were over the age of 35 - which I have to say, was a welcome relief. I find some of the younger owners to just be ... elitist and cliquey. Let me give you an example of the kind of conversation I overheard. 

Doggy Dad 1: "I don't know about you, but I was the number one man of the house before we got our guy."
Doggy Dad 2: [good natured chuckles] "I hear that. Our guy's just taken over the whole house."
Doggy Dad 1: "Does your wife prefer his company to yours, too?"

I stopped listening at that point, for obvious reasons. 

Then, one of the little dog mommies was admiring Hermione, and said,

"She's so sweet!"
"Yeah ... she sure can be."
"What's her name?"
"Oh ... what's that mean?"
"Well, it's a British* name ... and is also a character in the Harry Potter series."
"Ahh. I think I'm one of two people who's never read Harry Potter."

* I realize Hermione is actually Greek in origin, but since the British seem to be so fond of it, that was the easy explanation.

Anyway, It was a splendid time. Hermione did play with some of the little dogs for a while, which was so nice - she misses those little pups. Hagrid trotted around the circumference of the park at least three times. Smelled other dogs, chased as many tennis balls as he possibly could. There were a few people who brought camping chairs (there weren't too many benches at the park), many owners brought huge tote bags with them, like most people would with human babies or toddlers. But instead of toys, diapers and bottles, the bags held poop bags, water bowls, and tennis balls. Yet another example of how owning a dog is like having a child. 

Or in my case, children. 

But here's what I'll say about the Garden Grove dog park. It's paid for by the city ... and therefore, our taxes. Apparently, the Seal Beach park requires that non-residents of the city pay for a $12 non-resident dog registry for usage of the park - which I didn't know until after our outing. The Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa parks ask for donations, as the parks are operated by private citizens. 

My park might be small, and I might have a statistically high chance of injury when I go - but it's free. And in my little life, that counts for a lot. Clearly.