Finally gone to the dogs ... and the dog park

Jane Barcott and friend

Well, it’s happened. I have turned into one of those people. You know the type ... the kindly old woman who wears clothes with dachshund decorations and has a car magnet that says “Wag more, bark less.”

This dog lover phenomenon snuck up on me, I didn’t intend for this to happen.

Cats are fine. I have had cats in the past. Cats are not social animals. If you walk your dog, other dog owners stop to chat. If you are doing errands and spot a dog, you stop to commend them. You take your dog on outings where you interact with similar species, human and canine.

No one says, “Oh, I saw your cat in the yard the other day, “ or “How old is your cat?”

Except for my neighbor, cat owners don’t walk their cats or congregate with other cat lovers. I don’t know that cat owners share pictures of their pets to total strangers. There are no special cat days in the park. Cat lovers enjoy their cats in the privacy of their home.

Since I don’t have a fenced yard, I frequent the local dog park. If you have a dog and have not visited one, I encourage you to do so. It is a great cross-section of society, from college students to mechanics to ministers.

Really competitive dog owners tend to stay away because a dog park has a leveling effect. No matter what you do for a living or what kind of breed you have, everyone is there for the same reason: they love their dog. There’s usually a couple of owners who throw balls for the pack to chase. The rest of us sit and chat. That is life at the dog park.

At one time, we had what we called the dog park family. We were a group of 20 or so, of all ages, who met each night at the park, went out for dinners and had parties. Like all families, people married, divorced, moved, got transferred and eventually went our separate ways. We still have a few stalwarts, myself included, and slowly newcomers are frequenting the park. Life goes on, as it must.

There are many claims about the health benefits of owning a dog. I question that. My dog does make me laugh, but otherwise I see no noticeable difference in my health.

I do know I was once an honors English student in college and now I read a blog written by a dachshund. Even worse, I look forward to it.

So dog ownership does not improve mental acuity. Dog owners also speak about their pet’s unconditional love. I am pretty sure my dog’s love is conditioned by my providing biscuits and a warm, soft lap to sit on. Absent either, all bets are off.

Dogs also are supposed to provide home security. My dachshund takes this task very seriously. He has guarded me against the delivery person, the squirrel spotted out the window, garbage bins on the street. He’s like one of those alarms that goes off when a gust of wind blows. It is a mixed blessing at best.

I admit I have told my dog he is useless. He doesn’t fetch the paper, sniff out bombs, comfort those in need or detect cancer. In fact, the only reason he got through obedience school was by social promotion and a small gratuity to the teacher. Somehow, he has managed to secure a place in my heart. If you have a dog, you will understand.

Jane Barcott, who is retired from government service, is loving the good life in West Ashley.