Are you a dog person? I sure am. I read somewhere that dogs are God's apology for humans. If so, He did a good job apologizing.
Dogs are smart, loyal, sweet, eager to please and oh-so-devoted to their people. Not so surprising, then, to see to rising popularity of the dog park. Also not surprising - here in Gwinnett, we have several from which to choose.
I must confess, I'm a dog snob. Oh, I don't mean to say that I think one breed is better than another, or that a pure breed is any better than a delightful mutt. Rather, I mean that I don't let my dogs associate with just any other dogs. I treat my dogs just as I did our children; I hand-picked their friends (for the most part, until they got old enough to outsmart me). I do the same thing with my dogs. After all, I don't want them picking up some horrid disease from a dog whose owners don't keep their vaccinations up to date. Heavens, no. And we all know that there are plenty of dogs who just don't have good manners. It all starts with the parenting, you know.
Recently, Gwinnett County opened another dog park, and this one is not far from our house. I love to walk the trails in Gwinnett parks, and I usually take our youngest dog with me. Now, she enjoys the added benefit of socializing with other dogs. It's a win-win for us both. I love to take her to the dog park and just let her run, fetch her favorite stick, and play and wrestle with other dogs. The dog park is a great place to people-watch (and dog watch), and I've made a comfortable living doing just that over the years. In fact, we've spent so much time at the dog park, I've learned that there are separate and specific categories of dog parents. Allow me to illustrate.
I'll start with me. I'm in the Adoring/Doting category of dog parents. I love our dogs dearly, and I take my responsibility for their care and happiness seriously. Therefore,their toy box rivals anything our human kids ever had. I praise them often. I give them treats just for being cute. In other words, if our dogs were human, they'd be that kid in school that believes he deserves an award just for showing up. They'd be the kid that expects a toy every time Mom hauls him to the supermarket. They'd be the kind of kid that has a rude awakening as he grows older and reality dawns hard and heavy (I know what you're thinking. No, I didn't raise my human kids this way).
Another dog parent category is the Drill Sergeant. At the dog park, these are the dog parents who shout "No! Leave it!" every time the dog sniffs the ground or greets another dog. Parents like this make me wonder why they bothered to bring their dog to the park, anyway. What the heck is he supposed to do?
Yet another category I've identified at the dog park is the Practicing Parents. These are the dog owners, typically young adults, who are together as a couple and have a dog who stands in for the child they hope to have one day. These dog parents correct the dog with no apparent consistency, and they usually explain why they are correcting him. They even go so far as to explain the consequences of the dog's actions should he make a poor choice. I always feel kind of sorry for dog parents who fall into this category; I know for a fact how disillusioned and ill-prepared they are to raise human children. Anybody who's actually done so, knows that it requires a will of steel, courage beyond measure, and the ability to hide a smile whentrying to look stern.
The last category (and by far, my least favorite), is the High-Achieving Performance-Driven Parent. In this category are those annoying folks whose dogs perform on command, zipping through the agility course with ease, always looking to their masters for approval. These parents are usually smug and condescending, and more often than not, they make sure that their brilliant darlings don't associate with the misbehaving, ill-mannered under-achievers at the dog park (dogs AND people). What these pet parents don't realize is that when they're not looking, their brilliant pooch licks himself, sniffs tree trunks with blissful abandon, and eats cigarette butts and large bugs just like the rest of the pack.
Whatever category you fall into as a dog parent, I will say this: if you love dogs, you're a good person, no doubt about it. Now, time to take my little darlings to the park, right after I give them all treats.
Carole Townsend is a Gwinnett author and freelance writer. Her fourth book, BLOOD IN THE SOIL, was named Finalist for 2017 Georgia Author of the Year in the Detective/Mystery genre. Her previous three books are written with loving humor about the South. Carole often appears on network television talk and news shows, as well as on national radio shows. Her books can be found in bookstores, on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, and at www.caroletownsend.com. When she's not writing, Carole travels throughout the southeast, talking to groups about women, writing, family, and life in her beloved South. Follow Carole on Facebook (Carole Townsend-Author), Twitter @caroletownsend, or Instagram @carole.w.riter.