Dog Park Dystopia

Are dog parks only for dogs now?

I’m used to people gathering together like magnets. Lately, they’re not. My local dog park is one example.

Despite dog owners usually being a friendly bunch, this dog park is quiet. After releasing their dogs, people retreat to benches at opposite ends of the park or stand in the middle for poop vigil.

Back view of two people sitting on park bench not talking to each other with dog sitting beneath
Image by Charlie Foster on Unsplash

Regulars know dogs’ but not necessarily people’s names.

Everyone is friendly with the dogs, but warmth between humans is somewhat lacking.

I’ve seen several dog owners walk in, let their dogs run about, play fetch, and then leave without talking to anybody else. That level of remoteness among frolicking animals just strikes me as weird and incongruous.

Body snatchers?

Colorful chameleon on chain link fence
Image by Himesh Kumar Behera on Unsplash.

I try to talk to someone new every time…because community. Despite social media, community is dying, as this dog park behavior reveals.

I usually say hi and bye to those I’ve chatted with, especially those new to the dog park so they will feel encouraged to return.

But during our half- to one-hour visits, few others say anything as they come and go. Some even refuse to make eye contact when they enter the dog park.

What is going on?

What would they be like if they didn’t have a dog to get them outside? I’m not judging, I’m confused.

Pushing against isolation

I am a bookworm. I prefer books to people and for most of my life, I have been uncomfortable interacting with others.

Silhouette of person sitting alone on a bench in the distance
Image by Frank McKenna on Unsplash.

Email, Facebook, and texting should have made me happily squirm deeper into my introverted hole, but it did the opposite. I hated communicating by text when a human conversation was really called for.

I hated how people stopped asking, “What’s up?” because so much was shared online. Polite smiles replaced warm greetings and bunches of people looked at their phones instead of joking around and sharing secrets.

This dog park behavior I observed was the topping on the unsocial cake. We bring our dogs to the dog park because it’s important they socialize with other dogs but we forget that making connections is important for us too.

Talking to strangers

Image by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash.

Over the past few years, I have made it a point to try to connect more with others as I saw an increasing need to build and maintain community in an increasingly disconnected society.

It’s easier to reach out if you remember that everyone has a story and something to contribute.

Untold stories

Half holding marble in palm
Image by Dewang Gupta on Unsplash.

One dog owner had a tattoo of the Hawaiian volcano goddess Pele, on his leg. For a Local to put the most powerful Hawaiian deity on his body in a prominent place is no small thing.

I was dying to ask him about it…but I didn’t. Maybe I didn’t want to pry. It was hot, my husband wanted to leave, his dog wanted to play fetch. I left without asking.

Another man with huskies described his unusually cool garage that kept his dogs comfortable in the hot weather. Interesting, but what about his accent – Canadian? Another unasked question.

Your Take

What do you notice at dog parks or other public spaces?

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