Disappointment at the Dog Park

Sometimes, experiences exceed expectations. Take the Grand Canyon, for instance. No matter how many pictures you’ve seen or how many descriptions you’ve heard or read, nothing can quite prepare you for your first in-person visit. Ditto for walking into jam-packed Neyland Stadium on a crisp autumn afternoon. Or holding your firstborn grandchild in your arms just hours after he arrives.

I wasn’t expecting my first visit to the Roger and Marion Moore Dog Park to be anything like those experiences, though I had imagined that taking Kamala there for the first time was going to be at least a little bit magical. On a dreary January afternoon, with veterinary vaccination papers in hand, I stopped by the Cookeville/Putnam County animal shelter to purchase my membership to the dog park, which is right next door. Because it was pouring rain, I didn’t stop to scope out the park on my way home.

I did, though, have a vivid picture in my head of how wonderful it was going to be when Kamala and I went there together.

On the farm where I lived for 25 years, there were wooded trails and a big pasture where my dogs could run off-leash to their hearts’ content. There was a pond for swimming and retrieving sticks. When I moved to the suburbs, my dogs were still free to romp and roam because they came when I called them. After those dogs died, I swore I’d never get another. Then along came the pandemic and I changed my mind.

Kamala is different. For starters, I didn’t raise her from a puppy. She’s rescue dog with not a lot of training. When outdoors, she needs to be on a leash or securely fenced in.

Add to that the fact she’s a breed I’ve never dealt with before—mountain cur. Her ancestors crossed the Appalachian Mountains into Kentucky and Tennessee with the pioneers back in the late 1700s. Curs are “junkyard dogs,” bred for protecting their people and property and for trailing and treeing game, including squirrels, raccoons and even bear. They’re adept at hunting wild hogs, too. Kamala’s nose is perpetually in the air or on the ground. That’s one reason I don’t let her run loose.

Despite long walks and plenty of time in my small fenced back yard, she needs a place to cavort off-leash. To fetch whatever I throw. To chase and wrestle with her own kind. She’s a handful when we walk the neighborhood, overly excited when we encounter other dogs. But when she goes to doggy day care, she earns an A-plus for playing well with others. That’s why I had such high hopes for the dog park.

I planned our first visit for the day I received my second Covid vaccine because Hyder-Burks Pavilion is just a stone’s throw away. The weather was perfect. I packed a jug of water and a bowl, a Frisbee, several tennis balls and the card key that would get me through the gate of the dog park.

The shot and recovery time didn’t take long. Off Kamala and I went to play. I’d intended to start our visit by walking the outside perimeter of the park so she could get to know all her new friends through the fence before we actually went in. But there were no friends there. Not for her. Not for me. On that beautiful March afternoon, we had the big, lovely dog park all to ourselves. Kamala didn’t want to romp. She didn’t want to run. She didn’t want to scale the doggy climbing wall. All she wanted to do was sniff every square inch of ground, which I allowed for about ten minutes. Then we got back in the car and went home.

Sometimes, I’m sad to say, expectations exceed experiences.

(March 27, 2021)