Today my husband and I and our dog Cody took our morning walk at a coastal park that's been appropriated by dog owners as a dog park in the off-season. In the summer, it's closed to dogs.
But each winter morning at 8:30, dog owners come walking down the long road to the outermost spit of land surrounded by Casco Bay. Many of them carry traveling mugs of coffee, and dogs fan out in front of them, leashless, chasing and sniffing each other, grinning with their tongues hanging out. They all seem to know that the real playing will start further up the road at the water's edge.
When we got up there, twenty or so owners stood by the water watching the dogs play. Some held balls, sticks, and frisbies, knowing the dogs were too enamoured of each other to be interested in retrieving. Two dogs rolled around on the ground wrestling, and others ran in circles around them. Our Cody, unused to the routine, sniffed all the dogs, and did his bow that showed he wanted to play, but after a few circles of chase, he'd run back to us, leaning against our legs to get patted. Meanwhile, we talked to the owners, asking about their dogs. They'd tell their dogs' names, then their breeds or mix, their ages and where they came from. We were pleased to hear that, like our Cody, most were mixes from animal shelters.
The regulars were curious about Cody, and told us how beautiful he is. They urged us to bring him back. Walking back to the car, Win and I decided to try to come back every Saturday, with a thermos of coffee.
At the parking area, we noticed several cars with dog blankets on backseats, held up by loops that went over the headrests. Win said he'd take our backseat blanket to his sailloft tomorrow and attach similar loops. So we learned something, in addition to the great walk. On the way home, I told him that if anything happens to either one of us, the other should go to the dogpark regularly, that it's an exuberant way to socialize.