A couple months ago, I got a dog. His name is Tank, we love him, etc. And now that I’m a dog owner, I’ve become more acutely aware of folks around town – and at this newspaper- who have stated their claims against the utility of dog parks, but I’m not here to argue that point. The dog subculture in the District is not going away. And having spent a lot more time in and around various dog parks in the city, I’ve come across a few people. Let’s meet them.
1. No Social Life person. This person LIVES for their twice/thrice daily trips to the yard. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s so obvious to everyone that it makes for super awkward conversation. There’s nothing worse than having to deal with someone who treats other owners like a captive audience.
2. The Dog Hog. For whatever reason, this person would rather get the attention of dogs than that of people. Fair enough, but whatever it is that you get out of acting as if dogs just can’t stay away from you, is so transparent. Handing out treats to your pup and audibly wondering why other dogs just can’t stay away is lame.
3. Dad guy. Cellphone hip clip, high waisted pants, polo shirt, baseball cap. This guy has a zinger for everything, but never any real conversation. Harmless, as evidenced by his ‘I go walking in my running shoes’ style, but also oversees the park with an air of condescension that nobody appreciates. We aren’t your kids and neither is your dog.
4. Dad bro. Not to be confused with Dad guy, Dad bro is more akin to say, Van from “Reba” than Tim Allen. He’s always got stories about the latest IPA on tap at [insert local bar here] and a tease to a longer story that you’re never sure if you want to hear or not. He brings his kids, because you know, his kids are totally cool, he says. Often, he’s right.
5. The careless dresser. While some people have specific outfits they wear to the park, be it their modified yoga setups, running gear, or biking digs, this person is not concerned about any of that. The dog park isn’t a fashion show, and they know it. The clothes closest to the bed are the clothes that will be worn. Sidenote: this person, among others, is me.
6. College Athlete. This person has endless swag that lets you know that they played ball while the rest of you watched. Their boundless enthusiasm at the park reminds you of the practices you walked by and watched while you were on your way to the university library. God forbid this person played baseball/softball/football/volleyball because then, every activity becomes a mini-drill.
7. The actual nice person. Be leary of this person. They might catch you off guard and ask you about something that isn’t dog-related. What to do? Keep calm and carry on. There’s no need to freak out and walk away because you’re not comfortable sharing your feelings about Miley Cyrus. The nice person is underappreciated at the dog park because no one’s there for that.
8. The disillusioned owner. Your dog hates other dogs. Your dog hates other humans. Or, your dog hates humans, dogs, birds, squirrels, insects and anything else it comes across. Which is fine. But your dog does not belong at the dog park. Stop trying to convince everyone that the teeth-baring scowl and bite was ‘an isolated incident.’ Take a walk.
9. The wandering owner. This person is seemingly more in love with everyone else’s dog rather than their own. Their little one is off in the corner, chewing on stick, while they ham it up with someone else’s dog. Sure, be social, and yes, let your dog play with others, but goodness, give yours some love. Don’t make the Dog Hog pick up your slack.
10. The real-life friend. This is the stickiest of all the wickets. You’re actual friends outside of the park. Depending on how long you’ve known each other, this can be a non-issue. But if you don’t go relatively way back, it’s weird. Your dog park identity might not be reflective of your actual life, and sometimes that’s a good thing. The friend IRL might tear down that fourth wall at any moment.
Dog parks are useful, plentiful and improve on quality of life for some people. If you’re thinking about taking the plunge and acquiring a canine, think first: are you ready for the park?
Of course, you could just take the route of many dog owners I know: avoid them altogether. But, that’s no fun at all.