Dog Parks: A Simple Pleasure

Since moving to Lancaster, I've made it a priority to seek out more of life's simple pleasures. Whether it's spending my evenings relaxing before bed by folding all my work out clothes KonMari style or browsing through a treasure trove of books at my new local library, I'm happy to indulge in these simple moments that cost little to no money.

The indulgences I'm capable are slightly limited because I make sure not to leave my apartment for long after I come home from work in the evening because Cloe has been in her crate all day and gets upset even if I leave the apartment for five minutes without her. It's important for both of us to spend as much time together as possible and I don't want to jeopardize her well-being to go off on solo adventures. 

Cloe and fluffy dog

Going from a life where she roamed around a four bedroom house free all day and had her run of a half acre backyard has been a rough transition for her, but she's doing spectacularly well overall. When I lived with my parents, it was difficult having people over to visit because Cloe would bark for hours at whomever was visiting, which didn't lend well to relaxed chatting. Now that she has her own space away from other dogs, she's much calmer when people come by the apartment. She barks a little and then stops. She's no longer running away and instead gets all lovey dovey with our guests. Cloe has transformed in the best way possible and it's been such a relief.I swear most days she seems like a whole new dog and I fall a little more in love with her everyday. Who knew that was possible after 11 years?

In addition to her sweet personality finally showing through at home, Cloe has also gotten great at meeting strangers and other dogs while we're out on walks. Her behavioral improvement coupled with my love of petting dogs led to us to taking a trip to our local dog park. 

The dog park at Buchanan Park is not your average dog park. It's not a fenced in dog run that's poorly maintained that people rarely visit. Instead, it's an astroturf covered puppy paradise that always seems to be have a handful of dogs to play with. Seriously, this park may be my favorite part about moving to Lancaster, which is saying something considering all the amazing restaurants and how much I love my job. 

Dog Park

Now on the weekends, I'll get myself out of bed as early as possible, strap Cloe into her harness, and head off for a 5 minute drive to the dog park. Or if I'm feeling particularly ambitious, I'll take her after I get off work and there's sure to be tons of pups around to play with. 

I was a little hesitant to take her by myself the first time because old Cloe had a tendency to snarl and growl at other dogs who got in too close for her comfort. Luckily the weather was lovely a few weeks ago when my best friend from high school was visiting so she accompanied us on our maiden voyage to the park. And let me just say, I was in absolute heaven. 

Not only are there dogs of every shape and size that come over begging you to pet them and cuddle them, but there are also extraordinarily interesting people. My friends and family always joke about the fact that I'm one of those people that everyone wants to talk to. Without fail, I'll be out with a friend and start chatting with a random person we come across. I somehow find out the other person's life story and am often impacted by their hardships and successes. For the longest time I didn't realize that this was an unusual experience, but I've come to embrace these little interactions and really enjoy the intense, meaningful conversations with people I meet by chance. 

The dog park is a prime location for this type of conversation. Usually I find someone to talk to about their dog—I've learned the history of Shiba Inus and why you'd name a little Yorkie Bob Marley. But then there are the more profound conversations, like when I learned the story of a local school teacher. 

Dog Park Play

I was admiring this woman's dog that had a cute pink sweater and managed to get onto the topic of our different occupations. I learned that this woman was a teacher at one of the local middle schools and heard about her struggle to help her kids pass tests while also making sure they had enough food and rest to get through the day. She told me how she used money from her own paycheck to provide hot chocolate and peanut butter crackers to her students every morning, in hope that even a little bit of food in their empty bellies would help them focus on the day's lesson. Hearing her stories and contemplating the ineffectiveness of the public school system left me with a steady ache in my heart and the desire to do better in my little world. 

The moral of this story is that these small moments bonding with strangers while petting rambunctious dogs have profoundly changed my outlook on life. Not only am I enjoying the simple moments of seeing my dog expand her social skills, but I'm also getting to flex my compassion muscles. My emotions run the spectrum on these trips: pride at see Cloe blossom, excitement when new dogs come in to play, or hope when I talk to these inspiring individuals that make up our community. 

Thirsty puppy

While these dog park adventures started as a way to socialize Cloe and for me to play with more dogs, it's really grown into a bigger experience, a way to interact with a micro culture that has dogs as its common link. I've found the experience so rewarding that I've dragged another one of my best friends and my boyfriend along to appreciate the serenity among the wild play of unleashed pups. 

With the weather continuing to improve, I can only hope that I'll have more opportunities to head to the dog park. If you've had a similar experience or want to share your simple pleasure, please feel free to comment!

Feel WellSarah Walsh