We have a dog. A puppy actually. Vito is 5 months old and nearly 60lbs of crazy cuteness, for those of you who aren’t regular followers of the blog. We love the crap right out of the beast (even when he is a lamp, not a dog) and along with stuffing his fat little face with treats and taking him to weekly obedience training we take him to the dog park daily.
You see, dogs need to be socialized from a young age to ensure they don’t grow up to be fearful. Meeting and interacting with different types of dogs and people will help them become well-rounded and self-confident pups, so they say. Our local humane society recommends interaction with 100 people and dogs in a one month period so that’s what we’ve been trying to do. Because when you are talking about a dog that gets to be well over a 100lbs you don’t want them to be full of well, fuckery, for lack of a better word.
One night last week Vito and I had spent some time at the off leash park. It was dark and cold and therefor empty so we walked for 15 minutes or so before calling it quits and heading back to the van. I had just loaded Vito into his seat when a small hatchback car pulled into the lot. As I walked around to the driver’s side of my van three dogs came bounding up to me. I scratched their fuzzy ears as the owner made his way towards us.
“We’re a bit late, are we?” the middle-aged man asked me.
I took a look at his friendly face and said “Well, I have no problem staying so the dogs can play! What’s 5 more minutes?”
Vito hopped out of the van and I paused to lock the doors before I walked into the dark wooded path with the stranger.
We walked along while the dogs kicked up snow at our sides, playing as dogs will. They were tentative at first, but approached with trust and had decided within moments that they should be friends. The middle-aged man and I talked about our dogs while we walked the long wooded path into the park. I liked him immediately, and learned that his name was Ross. Ross’s dogs are a lot older than Vito but you wouldn’t know by looking at them play! Watching my gangly pup get his fuzzy butt handed to him by a pack of elderly dogs was hilarious! The off leash park allows me to see a side of my boy that I typically wouldn’t be able to in other circumstances.
And that is pretty awesome.
As Ross and I followed our muttly crew along the treeline we saw a figure approaching. I’ll call him a young guy, but that’s mostly just because he was close to my age and it’s my story so I get to do that sort of thing. Our 4 dogs approached his pup and the 5 of them went off leaving the three of us humans to chat. It was too cold to stay in one spot so the three of us walked on and watched the dogs romp and get to know each other.
At this point our lighthearted banter had carried us to the far end of the park and we followed the treeline to a secluded area that takes us out of sight of the park and the surrounding roadways. We were all so busy watching the dogs and enjoying the conversation that we barely noticed the stranger coming towards us. We said hello almost in perfect unison, and the stranger replied back with a hello.
Ross said “I sure am glad we have all the dogs out. Nobody would try anything with us!”
And I realized that I was apparently the only person who felt completely comfortable walking with strangers in an unlit park with only my 5 month old puppy for a security system.
And then that made me feel uncomfortable.
I wasn’t uncomfortable with my two male companions, or even overly weirded out with the dogless stranger who cut through the dog park. I guess I was just unsettled at the fact that we are so quick to judge who is “good” and who is “bad”. Can we really know in such a short period? Is it safe to judge by appearances but only if it’s a negative conclusion? Is it best to say “better to be safe than sorry” for our entire lives? If I had of erred on the side of caution I would have missed out on not only a great night of conversation and fun, but the three nights that followed when Ross and I got our dogs together.
Maybe we need to start socializing ourselves as much as we do our dogs. Would we be better people readers if we were subjected to getting to know 100 new people a month? Or even better people? Would we become more friendly and eventually become eager to meet new people and make friends?
When I look at my kids and my dog, I believe it.
So next time you are made aware of your insecurities, remember 100 people. Get out there and love 100 people and see if it changes your life.
This week I am linking up with Yeah Write. I love them because they are nice to me and they always smell pretty. Oh, and there’s the whole great writing thing they have going on too. Come read and get to know us! We’d love for you to write with us!