When you enter the dog park at McCarren, the first thing you see is a sign that reads, “No dogs without people. No people without dogs.” It seems to me that the first line is unnecessary and hilarious because it speaks to the dogs. It might just be for people who want to drop off their pooches, but every dog lover knows that if you need a sign to tell you not to abandon your dog with a bunch of strangers then you shouldn’t have a dog.
The same logic probably applies to the creeps that would enter the dog park without a dog. If it’s someone who just generally loves dogs so much they merely want to pet your furry companion, then no sign is needed. If it’s the creep who’s there to cop a feel, steal a dog, or just to stare and slowly lick their lips for some undefined reason, that sign ain’t stopping them either.
OK- Let’s say that you enter the park with your dog. Hopefully it’s yours and not some dog you saw tied up and thought, “Here is my perfect opportunity to gain entry into the dog park.” As soon as you’ve been there for a few minutes, someone will try to make conversation with you. As a Staffie owner in Brooklyn (which I am), you can’t enter a dog park full of gourmet coffee drinking freelance Mac users (I don’t count myself as one of these, even though I am) without being asked if your dog is a rescue. I had a whole routine on the word “rescue” that I had to abandon when I found out one of my favorite comics was already doing a similar one in his special. But for now, let’s examine a different element of it: Why they are asking this question.
It boils down to two reasons.
First: Some look down on people who buy dogs with so many on death row because of the bad stigma the media has created surrounding Pits. If you’re buying one, in their mind, you are killing one, and therefore you are an evil dog killer with whom they have no further interest in pursuing a conversation. When you tell a dog snob that you purchased your pup, they give you a horrified look, as if you just told them that you like to club baby seals to death for sport.
Second: Some perceive rescue dogs as unpredictable with a possibly violent history. What if it possibly attacks their dog? How dare you be so irresponsible as to bring an unstable ticking time bomb into a public park that their little precious baby is running around in! You’re therefore selfish, irresponsible, and not someone with whom they would want to continue pursuing a conversation.
So here is what I tell them: “I’m not sure.” It’s very simple. Here’s an example of a typical conversation.
Dog Owner: Is your dog a rescue?
Me: I’m not sure.
This really throws them off.
Dog Owner: What do you mean you’re not sure? Are you just the dog walker or is it your dog?
Me: It’s mine.
Dog Owner: So how are you not sure if it’s a rescue?!!
Me: I don’t remember where I got it from.
It’s generally enough to send them walking away, back to their little world of organic, free range, cage free, whole wheat, fair trade thoughts.
If they keep talking to you after that, they’re harmless. They are just as crazy as you are and so it doesn’t matter what you say now. Have fun.
You sit down on one of the wooden benches that looks like it was built from broken wooden crates by a fourth grade arts and crafts class while your dog runs around. Someone else’s dog decides to jump up on your lap. The owner usually follows. In this case, it’s fair game to pet the dog without asking because the ball is really in your court. That dog came on to you. But how far can you take it? Can you throw it in the air and catch it like some people do with their small kids? Can you take a small flashlight on your keychain and use it to look into the dog’s ears like a vet? It’s something you might want to do to make believe that you amounted to more in life than a freelancer who’s currently working on thinking about doing something soon, possibly, if that other thing comes through. Just make your own adventure and see how the other owner reacts.
There are an almost endless amount of scenarios I could propose about getting the most personal entertainment out of your next trip to the dog park. However, I only have a limited space in this week’s paper, so I will leave you with those seeds planted in your brain. If you see me there playing tug of war with your dog and an old piece of rope I found lying around, please be sure to come say hello. I’m there often because there is no sign that says I can’t.
PS: IF YOU HAVE SOME GOOD DOG PARK STORIES TWEET THEM TO ME @dannylobell on Twitter! I’d love to hear them!
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