Saturday was already a busy day, but since I remembered that a nearby kennel was having a two-hour free play time in their dog park each Saturday during the summer, and since Tilly and I have gotten very little walking in recently because of the extreme heat, I decided to squeeze it in.

When we arrived, the gate was locked and there was no sign with instructions, though there were a few women and their dogs already at the park. After trying to open the gate and failing, I had turned to go inquire in the office when one of the women came up to the gate.

“I can probably let you in,” she said. 

“Oh, ok,” I said, noticing that she had a magnetic pass-key attached to a lanyard around her neck. “Is this the free play time?” 

“Yes, I think so, no one from the kennel is out here yet. We’re all members. But I guess it’s ok for me to let you in,” she said, hesitating. 

“Oh, well I can just go to the office if you aren’t sure.” 

“No, it’s ok, I’ll let you in. It’s just that how we will know if ‘people’ have their shots and stuff,” she said, awkwardly changing to the third person. 

“I have Tilly’s records in the car, and I don’t mind walking up to the office,” I said again, not wanting to put out the stranger at the gate. 

“No, come on in.” The woman opened the gate with her card, and Tilly stormed into the play area, nearly knocking over a couple of the women, and instantly jumping on a few of the dogs, all the while wrapping me tighter and tighter in her leash. The gatekeeper reached down and unhooked Tilly. 

“Oh thank you. She’s really excited,” I told them, laughing. 

The women gathered together and began discussing the lack of staff and the intrusion of unvaccinated “people” while I tried to keep Tilly from jumping on the wire terrier mix that apparently had pulled a hamstring the week before. 

After about three minutes, Tilly started foaming at the mouth from all the excitement. She does that. Apparently other dogs do not. 

“Oh my gosh,” the woman from the gate cried out. “This dog must be thirsty; look at her.” 

The woman had grabbed a bucket to fill up with a hose and Tilly, who loves water, came storming over, nearly knocking her down. 

“Oh, she’s just excited. She always foams at the mouth when she’s excited, even if she’s not thirsty,” I explained. “I’ve got water for her in the car.”

“No, she’s thirsty. Look at her drink,” she said, pointing to Tilly again, who now looked like she was having a small seizure in the forceful stream of the hose. What any casual bystander wouldn’t have noticed, however, was that Tilly wasn’t actually drinking the water. She was biting it. 

“She loves the water,” I said sheepishly, as the other dogs and dog-moms kind of hovered back watching her. 

“I think she’s thirsty,” the woman said again, triumphantly, as she sprayed Tilly down with the hose. Tilly, of course, loved it. I, on the other hand, wasn’t exactly thrilled when Tilly came running over to me, looping through my legs, her wet fur leaving water marks on my pants that looked uncomfortably similar to a “bathroom accident.”

The women all snickered. I had to remind myself to make sure Tilly didn’t do the same thing to them. 

Later, all the dogs made their way over to a small pond in the dog park. Tilly, a Labrador Retriever, loved the unrestricted access to water. She jumped in and out, making small laps around the park between swims. When the other dogs came into the water, she jumped on them and splashed them gleefully, kind of like an 8-year-old boy. The other dogs quickly jumped out of the pond. Kind of like 11-year-old girls. 

One medium-sized mixed breed ended up sitting next to his dog-mom on the bench most of the time Tilly and I were there. “I don’t know why he’s being so anti-social,” the owner said. 

I had my theories. 

The same woman shrieked a few minutes later, “Is that your dog?” pointing to a black head poking up from the pond with a giant stick in its mouth. The dog looked so strong and majestic, swimming across the water that way. But before I could say, “Yes, look at her go!” Tilly came zipping around the park chasing another dog. Someone else’s hero came up royally from the water. 

In due time, Tilly squatted to do her business, and as the woman from the gate had made it very clear that everyone needed to clean up after her own dog, I quickly ran over to the disposable bag dispenser. 

With my back turned to the others, I heard the gate woman yell, “Your dog pooped!”
When I turned around, she was walking toward me pointing. “I know,” I said. “I’m cleaning it up.” 

“It’s right over here,” she said, pointing in a completely different place than where Tilly had gone. “My dog eats poop, so you have to clean it up.” 

“Oh, that must be someone else’s,” I said, relieved. “Tilly went over there.” 

“Then whose dog is that?” she said, pointing to Tilly. “Because I saw her squatting here.” 

We both looked at Tilly who was, at that very moment, squatting yet again, apparently taking the opportunity to leave her mark throughout the dog park. 

“Oh wow,” I said. “She must really have to go. I’ll get it cleaned up.” 

With Tilly’s mess properly disposed of, I rejoined the cluster of dog-moms just in time to hear one of the women say, as she pointed to Tilly’s rabies tag, “I mean, just because they have tags it doesn’t mean their shots are up to date.” 

Can’t they just let it go?  I thought.

Taking a deep, calming breath, I looked at my phone. Thankfully, it was time to go. I called Tilly over to me and began refastening her leash.

“Oh, you’re leaving already?” the gatekeeper turned potty-police woman asked me.

“Yeah, I knew I couldn’t stay long, and since it was the first time, I just wanted to check things out. It would be great for Tilly to have a place to run since I just can’t exercise her enough by walking her,” I said. 

“I do both,” the woman said smugly. “I took ‘Buster’ on a nice brisk 2-mile walk this morning before coming here.” 

“Well, I took Tilly to the park for a walk this morning, too,” I shot back, not mentioning that we were only there for 20 minutes since Tilly is horrible on the leash. “It’s just that . . .” 

“You should come back again when they have the tent out and all the treats. There are a lot more dogs. It’s a lot more fun,” she said. 

Anything would be more fun than this, I wanted to say. Instead I just nodded politely, “Yeah, it sounds great.” Maybe the free treats were worth it for all of these “members” to expose their precious babies to the supposedly unvaccinated, evil dogs who were just visiting. Why else would they come during the free open time? 

“Have a great weekend,” I said, leading Tilly over to the hose. I hadn’t even introduced myself or gotten the gatekeeper’s name, but at this point, it seemed better that way. I sprayed the pond scum off Tilly before she could jump on anyone, then we got in the car and came home. 

Maybe Tilly is getting enough exercise from walks after all. 

Other posts in the “One Woman” collection:
The Historian
The Helpless Widow
The Unknown Soldier

License Plate photo by Greencolander, via Flickr, used with permission under the Creative Commons License.