How I Discovered Community at the Dog Park
Most people don't think of the dog park when looking for an accountant or painter, but for Richard Glover and his dog Clancy, it's a hub for recommendations.
Down at my local dog park, the scene is one of constant frivolity. Everyone smiles. Everyone says hello.
Are dog owners nicer than other people? I can’t imagine that’s true, but sometimes it feels like it is. Certainly, perhaps due to the presence of their animals, the humans of the dog park find it easy to be friendly. When I take Clancy, my Australian kelpie, there, dogs are a magnet for humans and a lightning rod for conversations.
At the same time, I have to admit that I may have become too dependent on my fellow dog owners. Whenever a question forms in my mind, instead of turning to Google I think: “There’ll be an answer at the park.”
Not long ago, there was the grand swapping of recommendations for professional services. It started with an older fellow with a similarly elderly Labrador. “Does anyone know a good computer person?” he asked.
“I’ve got one,” said a lady sitting with her schnauzer, “but I’m slightly loath to share his details in case he gets booked up. I’d be willing to do so in return for a good dentist.”
“Oh, I have one of those,” said a young mother, jiggling a toddler on her hip as she patted her blue heeler, “but I wonder if anyone knows a good place where you can get your knives sharpened.”
“The butcher up the road does that,” said a man walking past with a whippet.
Into the pot of offerings I submitted an all-female painting crew—perfect job, completed pronto—and an excellent roofing chap. Out of it, I picked up an acupuncturist and a place where you can get a tarp repaired.
The downside of my dependency on the dog park is that people who are not dog owners think I’m slightly mad.
“That’s a beautiful painting,” said a friend the other day in my living room as he stared at a lush green landscape by Australian painter Remnim Alexander Tayco. “How did you come across the artist?”
“While walking my dog,” I said. “He has a kelpie-cross that Clancy adores.” Or when asked where I found my accountant, I reply: “I met her at the dog park.”
At this point, people crinkle their noses, as if to say, “What a peculiar place to find an accountant.” But what would be a better place? The local greengrocer? A ten-pin bowling alley?
At least I’m confident my accountant, as the loyal owner of an even-tempered pug, is unlikely to suddenly disappear with all my money.
Of course, meeting people is easier when you both have a dog in tow. Think about it: In most places where you meet strangers, you have to navigate some potentially rocky shores.
“So where do you work?”
“I don’t. I was fired last week.”
“But children—you have children?”
“Yes, but estranged. They objected to what I did to their parrot.”
“Taxidermy. That was the problem with the parrot.”
Suddenly the ship is sinking, with all hands lost.
Compare this to the smooth landing when you meet a fellow dog owner.
“What breed is your dog?” you might inquire. Or the surefire “That’s a beautiful pup. What is his or her name?”
Within minutes, you’ll have invited each other to dinner.
Clancy, for his part, always chooses to play with dogs whose owners are excellent company. God knows how he assesses their character from a distance. Maybe they just smell right.
Whatever the reason, dog parks are a rich source of not only top tips but also the small joys of strangers reaching out to each other—a reminder that people, most of the time, are kind, generous and welcoming.
We’re not as good as dogs, of course, but we’re not half bad.
Next, brush up the surprising benefits of pet ownership.