[Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of this excursion, because I wasn't actually planning on taking her to the dog park. Hence, I did not bring my camera. You'll just have to use your imagination!]
I haven’t been all that eager to take Pyrrha to a dog park.
I am well aware that dog parks can be stressful places, especially for shy dogs. You can’t control the other dogs in the park. You really don’t have any idea what the other dogs will be like or how they will behave. As the guardian of a shy dog, I view dog parks as a risky place. But I’ve still always wanted to visit one, mainly for curiosity’s sake. And there is something so alluring to dog people about a wide, fenced-in area where your dog can run free…
So, this past Saturday afternoon, a breezy and warm day, I decided to take Pyrrha to the local park, just to romp around the fields on her long lead. She was happily sniffing and darting around for a good half hour or so. Now, this particular place does have a fenced-in “dog park” area. I decided that maybe we’d just mosey over there and I’d let Pyrrha sit on the hill and watch the dogs from a safe distance. If she looked exceedingly anxious, we’d turn around and go home.
As we approached the dog park, I saw that it contained only two pups: Two almost identical-looking beagle/hound mixes. One was a few inches taller than the other, but they were almost like mirrors of each other—the same markings, the same faces and ears. Pyrrha saw them and was instantly alert. I started talking with the two men in the park. To my surprise, the dogs—Khaleesi and Malcolm—were not related and the men didn’t even know each other. They both adopted their dogs from the local SPCA, though, and it made me think that there must be some canine lothario roaming around these parts…
Pyrrha gradually gained confidence to sniff Malcolm and Khaleesi through the fence. All three tails started to wag and I thought, “Well, I guess you can’t get a better introduction to a dog park than this.” (And I already knew that Pyrrha felt comfortable around beagle-shaped dogs, for whatever reason.)
I snapped off her leash before we walked through the gate, and the afternoon in the dog park proceeded without a hitch. I was so relieved–and proud of how smoothly and calmly she acted. Pyrrha, Khaleesi, and Malcolm romped around in circles, each one demonstrating how poor their retrieving skills are, and alternately relaxed with each other under the shade of the sole tree. We had only one other visitor: An older woman and a mannerly 8-year-old black lab named Chesty, who only stayed for about 10 minutes. Chesty’s introduction to the group was also very smooth and Pyrrha didn’t seem nervous at all—no hackles, nothing. Being off leash really does wonders for her.
I couldn’t have asked for a better or more relaxed introduction to the dog park for Pyrrha. I think we’ll still be cautious with dog parks, but this was a successful first time and I am grateful that she had this very positive encounter.