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Hardy Dog Park

on November 23, 2009

Townes yipped and squealed as his owner led him near the fence at North Oakland’s Hardy Dog Park. He saw a few friends inside the dog run and strained against his red collar and leash to say hello.

Townes’ owner, Bonnie, led him through the gate, bringing a black hound, a collie, and a black and tan Australian sheep-dog running to greet the newest member of the morning run. Townes bounded in.  He’s 11 months old and big.  He pawed and sniffed his way through the introductions, and the group sped off over the dusty dog run’s fenced-in area under Highway 24. The morning sun bathed half the run in intense golden sunlight, while the rest remained in chilly shade.

Bonnie zipped up her “Hardly Strictly Bluegrass” hoodie and took a seat on one of the benches set aside for human use. Two other humans occupied the next bench, one typing on his blackberry, the other carrying on a conversation on a pink flip cellphone. The three acknowledged each other politely but sat quietly, watching their dogs; the morning’s quiet was broken only by the background roar of cars and trucks passing overheard. “I find the dynamics of the dog park really interesting,” Bonnie said later. “It’s kind of like casual carpool, with that protocol where nobody speaks unless the driver does.”

Named in honor of the Texas troubadour, Townes was all white with brown patches on his eyes and ears and a wide-open sloppily grinning face; his pedigree was St. Bernard (thus the largeness) mixed with pit-bull (thus the athleticism), and he used his stature to good effect amid the pack. He welcomed all comers, easily batting down with the wave of a paw the various smaller dogs that attempted to jump on his head. The hound provided a more equitably-sized partner. The pair sprinted and darted around the yard.

A male owner used a long, blue cupped instrument to scoop up a tennis ball and fling it across the dog park, sending one or another of the canines bounding across the dust and wood chips to retrieve it. The humans nodded and smiled approvingly. One kicked a ball sending another pair out into the yard on a repeat mission.

Dogs bring the people to this yard and they drive the conversations that come up. “Everybody gets to know each other but only by the dog’s names,” said Bonnie. The humans cooed as two smaller dogs frolicked. In its enthusiasm, a brown short-haired dog jumped up onto the back of a white maltese-terrier. With one unexpectedly carrying the other, the pair stumbled and dipped in confusion, one moving left, the other right, until they separated and ran off. “That was pretty cute,” said one owner. Another simply nodded.

Eventually it was time to go. Bonnie led her dog out of the park. But Townes wasn’t having it.  He parked himself flat on the grass, legs splayed out.  His owner pulled on his leash.

“C’mon, C’mon,” Bonnie said. “It’s time to go.”

Townes rolled around the ground, clearly enjoying the cool of the grass.  Bonnie had seen this tactic before. She dropped the leash.

“Ok. See you later, then.” she said and moved to leave the park. She covered roughly three feet before Townes bounded over, yipping for his owner.

Bonnie said she was heading home to get on with her day. After his workout, Townes would be much easier to handle, she said. “Thirty minutes in the dog park lets me work all day.”


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