I'll be honest. The very notion of a dog park initially struck me as decadent - just another sign that we're going to the dogs. Why can't people just walk their frickin' dogs? What's next? A cat park? Hamster playground? Well, as is the case with so many other things, I was completely wrong. I pretty much spent the weekend there. It was both more fun and a lot cheaper than a day trip to Philly or NYC, although I am scratching myself a lot.
What you do is walk inside the damn enclosure, pretend you're from Bethlehem by doing a chicken dance or something, take your dog off the leash, and watch her romp. She's a completely different animal than the one who yanks at your leash. Most dogs are completely social. They run, jump, play bite, growl, dump, growl again, run around some more, dump again, and generally have a good time. I swear they're smiling. In addition to the dog, I also let a seven year old boy off his leash, but he had to clean up his own dumps. I had as much trouble extracting him from the park as I did with the dog.
Over the past three days, he met greyhounds and whippets, and saw firsthand why they are rated the fastest dogs in the world. Man, do they fly! He saw everything from lumbering English mastiffs, the world's largest dogs, to chihuahuas, the world's smallest. He can tell you about an intelligent German Shepherd who stole his sandwich as he was walking towards the park, a gigantic Bernese Mountain Dog who played gently with a three pound jack-a-poo pup, and basset hounds , who perpetually patrolled to bark at dogs stepping out of line.
What also amazes is just how damn nice people can be. I've wasted years running bike paths throughout the Lehigh Valley, especially along Sand Island and in Palmer Township. Most people just don't want to say hi when they're out for a walk or run, even with their dogs. But at the dog park, people actually spoke to me, even though I now have ridiculous gashes on my forehead and nose. Maybe they thought I was one of the dogs. I did get a milkbone.
A few people came with no dogs at all. They liked being around those rolling fur balls.
Obviously, a little puppy or sick dog would not do well in a dog park, and you have to keep an eye on your pet at all times. It's basic common sense. One fellow decided to test whether the Doberman he picked up at a shelter three days earlier was social by bringing him to the dog park. Guess what? He wasn't. I would suggest checking out the park for a few minutes to make sure there are no problems and to leave if a dog or its owner starts acting strangely. Must be why I ended up alone.
There are only 29 dog parks in Pennsylvania, but the Lehigh Valley may soon have its second canine playground. Nazareth approved the concept back in July.