Often I walk down the street to the park near our house (http://hilarysplaces.com/blog/entry/what-can-you-do-with-a-dump). Not only is it a lovely place, with fine vistas, playing fields, a track where sometimes I walk a speedy mile, a playground, and lots of young trees, and a wetland, but it has a Dog Park.
Now, many of you are probably dog owners, and know all about dog parks, and about dogs. I am a cat owner and always have been. But I so admire dogs—their cheerfulness and their smiles. Dogs are cheery; cats are, for the most part, dour. Cats do not smile. They play, but in a kind of self-centered way. Your dog, on the other hand, appears to be overjoyed when he gets to play with another dog. He smiles, wags tail, frolics. A cat would not be caught dead frolicking. And cat tail-wagging is a warning signal that one must attend. A cat most certainly does not smile. A purr is about the extent of it, and that given grudgingly.
But not your dog! Your dog in your dog park is in heaven, or at least sitting wistfully at the gates of heaven, if not a really social dog. Some are shy, and hang back near their person, watching the others at play, wishing (I project here) that he could join in, but uncertain about how. The others though are leaping, bounding, yipping, nipping and sniffing, in a big mound of dog.
I can’t help but be cheerful, too, when I get to watch them myself. The ball is thrown. GALLOP GALLOP across the dirt YES! I got it! Master wants it back! I will bring it! HERE MASTER! Here is the ball! DO IT AGAIN CAN WE DO IT AGAIN CAN WE DO IT AGAIN!!
In the olden days, when I was a kid, there was no such thing as a leash law, and our neighborhood dogs were free to wander. Next door lived General, a black and white dog of indeterminate lineage, and behind General’s house was Travis, who was a fine standard chocolate poodle. Travis used to come around to our front yard, and I would pretend to train him. “Travis, sit!” I would admonish him. Sometimes he did, actually. General and Travis would now and then go off on what my Mother described as a toot; they’d be gone for two or three days and when they returned their coats were full of burrs. I’ve no idea where they went but there were some empty lots around our larger neighborhood, and maybe they went to explore them together. Those empty lots had horny toads in them, and I bet the boys had fun chasing and perhaps catching—and eating?—them.
Anyhow, when I want to spend a little time in the company of cheerful beings, I just walk down to the dog park. I come home feeling better. It’s no wonder there are therapy dogs. I think the line between us and dogs or other smart animals is not so very wide. I think it’s more sort of porous, you know? I mean, if I can tell if a dog is smiling and having a good time, he can probably tell the same about me. And isn’t that what everything is about, really—understanding each other, humans, dogs, or whoever?