We are going to do something a little different today. Instead of walking the dogs around the neighborhood, I thought I would invite you to join us at the dog park, our favorite destination on weekends.
Dress in layers for our journey. You never know when a shower will pass overhead, and you never know when the sun will make a brief appearance. Such is life in Olympia in February and March.
By now you surely know how this works. Our journey begins where the pavement ends, at the end of our driveway, and the wonders begin.
A Quick Half-Mile Journey
It is Saturday morning, 8:30 to be exact, as Bev and I herd our two dogs, Toby and Maggie, into the car for a quick drive to the “dog park.” In truth it is not a designated dog park, but rather the site of a former public school, now torn down, about three acres of emptiness awaiting the City’s plans.
Shortly after the school was closed, people would stop by, notice the inactivity, and test it out with their dogs, one here, two there, nothing resembling a movement, just spur-of-the-moment stuff, a nice place to take the dogs off-leash and let them run, no harm, no foul, the City much too busy with important matters, and not concerned with the occasional dog breaking leash laws.
As so often happens, word spread throughout the community so that now, on any given Saturday or Sunday morning, a group of ten or more people will show up, maybe fifteen dogs total, and the Weekend Ritual begins. 8:30 seems to be the official, unofficial time of arrival. Everyone knows everyone’s name. Everyone knows the dogs’ names. Poop scoop bags are carried by all, treats are in every pocket, balls are thrown, sticks are chased, rabbits are hunted with no success, and for a half-hour, maybe an hour, a grand time is had by all.
Maggie and Toby, Yin and Yang
It’s amazing, really, watching Toby and Maggie interact with other dogs. Toby is the neighborhood clown. He loves to play with anyone, anything, a dog, a human, a stick, a leaf, makes no difference to our big goofball, he just loves to play. For a solid half-hour he is running with the pack, wrestling, jumping, frolicking, chasing, tongue out, breathing hard, squeezing every ounce of fun out of the time allowed. Maggie, not so much. I’m not even sure Maggie knows how to play. Oh, she’ll try, but the effort is always short-lived, and she always knows where her humans are, keeping Bev and I in sight, playing for thirty seconds and then racing back to us, by our side, nuzzling our legs, much happier with human interaction than furball play. I want to feel sorry for Maggie, all the fun she misses out on, but then a lump forms in my throat, and I’m deeply touched by the love she has for us, her total dedication to the people who love her so.
A Snow Day
Another day, shortly after, we are experiencing our first snow of the winter, the ground glistening, the trees drooping under the weight of it all, the air crisp, a good six inches, probably more, and damn if that snow doesn’t cleanse us all, bring smiles to chilled lips, broaden our smiles, as only snow can do, a childlike mood falls over the field, humans remembering days long ago, childhood returns in our minds, sledding and snowball fights and snow constructions, the universal memories which keep us comforted as age has its way, slows our movements, makes us more cautious, more wary, less willing to take the risks of youth.
There are no hesitations from my dogs. Maggie remembers her youth, digs her snout in the snow, lifts up a clump, and jumps in joy. Toby, he’s bouncing, lifting high in the air, think Tigger of literary fame, catching snowflakes as they fall, his fur caking with white clumps, his breath expelling with great bursts, and it is an absolute joy to watch them, their joy infectious, you know, and I can’t stop laughing, nor can Bev, a damned fine way to spend a snowy morning.
The cold eventually wins out, inevitable, really, for we humans have limitations. The dogs are weary, and our woodstove is calling to us, promises of warmth and dry clothes, hot chocolate and savoring memories newly-made, we return home and the dogs are immediately asleep on the floor, visions of snowflakes dancing in their doggy heads.
Three Days Later
And the snow is gone, poof, just like that, the giant magician in the sky waving a wand, leaving mud behind, huge lakes of mud, quagmires, really, and isn’t that a lovely word, quagmire, perfect word for the meaning, me thinks, and Toby is right in that quagmire quick as a flash, reveling in it, daring me to tell him no, which I can’t because he’s such a clown, our Toby, playful as the day is long. Maggie and me, we walk around the quagmire, God I love that word, we are constantly looking of solid ground, dry ground, enough with the wetness and mud and chill.
The weather has warmed. Not Florida-warmed, certainly not Honolulu-warm, but close to fifty, and that feels like a gift to these old bones.
It’s been two years now since Toby joined us, and it’s taken that long, every single day of it, to understand our playful boy, to learn his quirks, his fears, his triggers, as it did for Maggie, and that’s being with them daily, as I am, and I can’t help but wonder how long it takes to understand a human being, so complicated we are, bombarded by stimuli, the accumulation of decades of learned behaviors, imprinted with DNA, imprinted by nurturing, imprinted by negatives and positives, and is it any wonder there is so much discord in the world? Is it any wonder so many people just can’t seem to get along with others? Is it any wonder why social media has turned into such a quagmire (LOL) of opposite viewpoints, why it has become a popular pulpit for any snake oil salesman or huckster, and why so many are willing to stand in line to purchase the snake oil?
We are just damned complicated!
The Beauty of These Walks
These walks are like a decompression chamber for divers with the bends, you know? I find peace on these walks. I find companionship with my two dogs, no negativity, no judgments, no chastising.
I find neighbors willing to say hello without shouting slogans. I find fellow human beings just trudging along similar paths, and I find human beings pushing through the mud and guck, trying to find dry ground. These walks give me a greater insight into my dogs, for sure, but they also provide insight into my fellow passengers on this Inter-Galactic spaceship called Earth. All that’s required of me is to have an open mind and be willing to reach out and welcome with a “hello,” and that seems like a very simple thing for me to do.
February has moved into March as I finish this reflection. Buds are appearing. Birds serenade. The temp broke sixty the other day, cause for celebration, and the rains are fewer and far-less punishing.
Life is good!
Three simple words, but for the longest of times, those words escaped me. I was literally incapable of grasping them . . . life is good!
It took two dogs, a loving woman, a large handful of online friends, and the willingness to grow spiritually, for those words to appear in my life.
Life is good!
Thanks so much for joining us. You can find us every single day, Olympia, Washington, where the pavement ends and the wonders begin.
2021 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)