Saturday, April 14, 2012

Talking to Strangers

I love Saturdays.  This afternoon, I took Teddy out to the Three Forks Off Leash Dog Park in Snoqualmie after he chewed up the yellow pages in the truck while waiting for us to get back from Nick's snowboard lesson.  He had found some napkins, an old food wrapper, and a bubble wrap envelope too.  Shredded.  All of it.  The thick book of yellow pages was the most telling.  He had never eaten a book before. 

Don't worry.  He didn't actually eat it.  He just tore it into little bits, a message really, in case we couldn't see his displeasure at our languid return to the truck.  The yellow pages was years out of date.  He'd had to crawl under the seat and pull it out.  I'd even forgotten it was there.  Who even uses three-dimensional phone books anymore anyway?  I just use my iPhone. 

Have I ever told you how much I love my iPhone?  I sometimes use it as a phone, but more often, I text, check definitions for Scrabble on Safari, play Scrabble, Facebook, check Weather Channel weather by location so I can see what the weather is like at the pass, Google Earth for places I want to see before I die, check bids on eBay, get directions, monitor my walks on Runkeeper, monitor my sleep on Zeo, and entertain my boys with a myriad of free games.  Information is at my fingertips.  Did you know that you can see Egypt's pyramids from the satellite images on Google Earth?  Maybe I should look for Notre Dame too (not the university - I've visited the university).  So you see how I could forget that there is a thick yellow pages book under my front seat?  I hadn't needed it in quite a while. 

The remaining job of those yellow pages in this incarnation (I did recycle it) was to soothe a restless puppy.  Sometimes I forget that Teddy is still a pup.  He's a good-natured dog.  He likes his walks, but he can skip a day here and there if he had a decent walk the day before.  He likes to play tug of war and expends some energy that way, though he gets upset if we try to play in the kitchen.  The floor in the kitchen is vinyl and he can't get a good grip with his feet.  The way he shuffles his back legs and whines, sounding very much like an eleven-year-old boy is very funny.  Sometimes, when we're behind with walks, we throw his toys down the stairs for him to retrieve.  Those are only temporary solutions to his excess energy.  Even the cats get to looking at me, asking silently if I'll take him away and later bring home the much quieter, more tired dog that they prefer. 

So today, since I was tired and he was still energetic after shredding everything but my backpack in the truck, I took him to the off-leash dog park.  It was perfect.  The late afternoon sun was golden across new grass, only leaving us momentarily behind dark clouds to remind me to look up at the sky.  I quickly joined a crowd of people standing in the middle of the field.  This park doesn't encourage you to walk the way Marymoor does with its network of trails.  This park is simply a large green field of grass with Mt Si as a backdrop.  People tend to stand in a row facing the mountain.  By the time I got there, it was already turning a dusty purple in the light.  Why do mountains turn purple at sunset?  It doesn't seem to matter what they're covered with, rock or green trees, they still do that. 

I had joined a friendly group, a woman with an Australian Kelpie mix, a couple with a sweet Pit Bull, another couple with a four-month-old Bernese Mountain Dog, a woman with a Shar Pei mutt with no wrinkles, and another couple with a pair of herding mutts that looked like littermates.  The dogs took just minutes to size up us newcomers, Teddy being perceived as no threat at all, but the herding mutts forming a pack against the existing one for a bit until they ironed out who was alpha.  The Pit Bull just wanted cookies from my pocket.  She was already worn out from being there a while.  The Mountain dog pup wanted to be petted, but Teddy swooped past to make sure she knew I was his person and she shouldn't get too attached.  There was no aggression, just a shoulder bump and a loop around.  The Kelpie didn't like when one of the men ran and he backed up against his owner barked his protection orders.   His owner said that she this dog had been abused and he was making great strides.  Oh, the damage that people sometimes do.  It's so hard to undo.  I knew what she meant because I used to have a cat who squatted and peed in fear when you jangled your keys or picked up a rolled newspaper. 

I love that I can join a group of total strangers and begin and then end a relaxed conversation.  Like Teddy, I seemed to fit right in, though some of the other people seemed to know each other.  Later, I found out that they only know each other though their dogs. Everyone was relaxed and having fun.  Even the guy who'd been barked at was feinting a run now and then just to press the Kelpie's buttons, but not too much.  We all laughed as we watched the dogs race and tumble and dodge.
When everyone left, I wasn't ready to go, but somehow didn't want to be left standing there by myself, though I could have used some time to actually walk.  Teddy was tired out and, though I'd gotten little exercise, so was I.  As I walked back to the car, I noticed streaks of clouds that washed over my head in what looked like rows of waves.  They were fanned out from the perception of perspective.  If someone had painted a picture like this, it would have felt contrived, like the ivy-covered cottages of Kincaid, a little too sweet.  But this was my own sky, not a photo or a painting.  I stood, after everyone had left, and waited for the pink to turn to gray, before I left to come home.  Teddy waited patiently at my side, his look telling me we could go since all of his friends had gone. 

When I walked in the door, the cats were happy to see I'd transformed the dog yet again.  It was a good Saturday. 

Thank you for listening, jb

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