Back in April, I rescued a large puppy; a Great Dane/Mastiff/Shepherd mix.  I knew he was going to get big, so I began taking him to the local dog park as soon as I could so that he could get used to being around other people and other dogs.  I did not want to be the owner of a giant, unsocialized beast that could potentially hurt people.

So Kaiju (Japanese for monster) and I joined the Bark Park community.  We met a lot of people and a lot of dogs. At this point it would be easy to write a piece on how dogs naturally get along with most other dogs regardless of what they look like, who they live with, etc.  Too easy, to be interesting, really.  Dogs are just the best.

What surprised me were the people.  Since we started going to the park in the mornings, I’ve met people of all backgrounds, races, genders and political outlook.  While our dogs chased each other, played tug-o-war, or wrestled,  I have had conversations about all sorts of things with tons of people.  The only thing that we initially had in common was a love of our dogs.  However, as we talked we found we had a few more things in common, but many more stances and ideas that we absolutely did not.

I have some pretty strong viewpoints, but I’ve never been in an argument at the park about my thoughts.  Somehow, we are able to listen to each other, disagree and still greet each other the next time we’re in the park together.  Maybe like our dogs, we understand the park to be a neutral space, so we don’t get territorial.  Or maybe people are just better to each other than we believe they are.  I like to think it’s the latter.

The other thing that surprised me is that without any direction, a lot of people take it on themselves to make the park experience better.  I met a couple who were concerned that the potholes in the trail could cause someone to fall.  Everyday that they came to walk their dog, they brought a Home Depot bucket full of sand and rocks to fill in the holes.  Another lady brings bags of tennis balls that she spreads all over the park.  Random acts that make all of the Bark Parkers lives easier, without a thought about being recognized or reimbursed. But it’s not all smiles and puppy kisses out there.  Sometimes dogs fight. 

Sometimes people fight. Oftentimes there is unclaimed poop.  But I’ve also witnessed people breaking up dog fights that their dogs aren’t even a part of.  I’ve seen people break up people fights before they get out of hand.  And I’ve seen people pick up their dog’s poop and the one next to it for good measure. How awesome would it be for the rest of my life to work like the dog park? 

How awesome would it be if your life did?  For what it’s worth, here’s my charge to you: Have a civil conversation with someone who thinks differently;  Fill a hole that needs filling in someone’s life; be the voice of reason in a challenging situation: or pick up a little poop so the next person doesn’t step in it. We can all do a little bit that can make a big difference in the community.  And if you need a little help to do that, come talk to us.