The dog park was packed and has been for a couple weeks now. The evenings are getting shorter and shorter and the temps are dropping. We are reminded that even the paradise of the dog park is subject to the harsh ministrations of winter.
The dogs can sense it as well.
Time is running short. Soon the park will be frozen, snow packed down to slick ice, suitable for only the most tenacious of dogs and their psychotic owners.
The dogs gathered in packs and ran. The packs are constant, mercurial, almost ephemeral. No single group maintains cohesion for more than a few minutes. One pack, a number of terriers ganging up on a surprisingly sprightly Irish Wolfhound, lasts only until it collides with the barking mass of border collies and cattledogs all trying to herd one another. The packs mingle briefly and break apart and the border collies are herding the wolfhound, the terriers and cattledogs spin out of control. Dogs run the fringes looking for like minded buddies. Boxers lover to chase and wrestle one another, they prefer to be equally matched. The retrievers desperately look for something to chase and the whippets are happy to oblige.
Asses and faces are sniffed, demeanors calculated. Chester knows the dogs that he wants to chase him. Black and white spaniels seems to be the best. Perhaps he knows they are fast enough and interested enough to chase him without ever becoming aggressive. He loves to be chased, but not hunted. If he can’t find a suitable partner he’ll go find Maddie. Oblivious to the chaos around her, Maddie is often found snuffling, marking and drooling. Over and over, she snuffles, marks, drools. She knows the other dogs are there. She does not care. From a distance, Chester will spy her and freight train his dense little body into her. Bugging her until she is well and truly irritated, he takes off with her in pursuit. They are well matched, chasing, wrestling, knocking each other around. Chester knows that Maddie will never actually harm him and off they go.
Other dogs see the chase and again, packs are dispersed and reformed with little thought. The occasional fight breaks out, the dogs are separated and moved to different areas and the bassets continue their constant play by play commentary to anyone who will listen.
The sun sets early. At 7pm dusk is on us, Maddie’s failing eyesight is even more apparent as she loses the ability to distinguish shapes and she relies on her nose and ears to find me. At 7pm, the dusk reminds us that we are on borrowed time, that the 8pm treks to the dogpark in June are gone. We hold on as long as we can, letting the dogs chase each other one more time.
We can all feel it coming to an end, like fighting a strong wind we puts our backs up against it and for a minute we can pretend it’s summer for a few minutes.