Sunday, October 5, 2008

Scenes from a dog park - 4

Stella is 6 now or just a bit over. I don't know when her birthday is except that she was born in the summer 6 years ago. For a Dane, 6 is bordering on old. Stella, like most people, made her best friends, her life long friends, when she was young.

Stella saw Marlowe today. Marlowe is a German Shepherd. The first time they met, Marlowe was a pup and Stella was just a little over 2 years old. We were at the park and the instant Marlowe saw Stella, he came rushing over and crashed into her. He being maybe 10 lbs. and she being 130 lbs. meant that the impact didn't amount to much. But Marlowe was no slouchy puppy. He kept jumping up at her with his big puppy feet and bouncing off her and grabbing at her jowls and nipping at her ankles until like a great elephant hunted by a pesky Pygmie, she was beaten into submission and fell to the grass, rolled on her back, tongue hanging out. Even then Marlowe gave her no mercy. He would tumble in haphazardly, as puppies are wont to do, crash into her again, fall on her, and then tumble out. By the end of it, Stella was so exhausted from play, she couldn't even lift her head. Of course she loved it.

Stella doesn't play much with puppies anymore, in fact, these days, she'd rather avoid them whenever possible, but when she used to play with them, she was always gentle with them, matching their strength, never overpowering them. She was like that with Marlowe. He'd run around her feet and she'd try not to step on him even as he was trying to find some tender part on her to nip. He was especially good at getting at her ankles, tripping her up. And then she'd turn around and box him with her paw or press down on him with her chin. She never bit. In play, she never used her teeth.

They've been good friends ever since that first day and Marlowe became one of the pack. There was Dao, the Portuguese Water Dog, and Mocha, a Husky Shepherd cross and Mac, a Pointer and Yuki, a Husky and Ozzie, a Ridgeback and there were others but I can't remember them all. We had some good mornings back then when everyone would show up and all the dogs played and it must have felt like a family for them. I know it did for Stella. Whenever we got to the park first, she'd always stare at the gate waiting for her friends to show up.

In the years since then, people's schedules have changed, arguments and politics have arisen, some have moved, new people have arrived with new dogs, some of them - the people - not so friendly. The park is busier now than it ever was but Stella doesn't see her old friends as much, some of them hardly ever and the new dogs, well, they're just not the same thing.

That's why this morning, when she saw Marlowe, she was thrilled. Her tail started whipping back and forth and she kept looking back at me from the end of her leash wanting me to hurry up. And when they played, they played like when they were young, assuming their former roles of David and Goliath, Stella still whacking Marlowe with her paws, Marlowe still deaking in and out, running circles around Stella.

It was good to see her happy like that, lost in the moment. Too often these days, she stares fruitlessly at the gates to the park, hoping for some friends to show up. She'll just stand there, by herself, waiting.

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