JD Allinder

The Dog Park

In Posts on August 7, 2009 at 6:53 pm

Jane at Swift Run

Jane and I paid our first visit to Swift Run Dog Park, located on the southwest corner of Ellsworth and Platt Roads in Ann Arbor, on our second day together, back in October of 2008. We took a three-hour leash walk around town on the afternoon I brought her home from Broken Road Rescue, but it did nothing to tire her or quell her nervous energy. It was obvious to me that what she needed was to run off leash – to completely exhaust herself – but I couldn’t let her run untethered either in the woods or the parks near my house. I have a fenced-in yard, but to Jane it was nothing more than a place to sniff about and do her business. Fortunately, my neighbor Brent told me about Swift Run.

Swift Run, or just the dog park as I’ve always called it, was a godsend. It’s ten acres of fenced meadow where Jane could run and run and run until she fell over from exhaustion.

Grazing Jane

We visited five days a week, rain or shine, for about six months. For two hours I walked laps around the perimeter while Jane followed or ran around with her buddies. We worked on basic verbal and whistle commands and made numerous human and canine friends, settling nicely into a sort of dog park scene. On sub-freezing afternoons I’d huddle with other dog parents, sipping steaming lattes, discussing such earth-shattering topics as the pros and cons of rewards-based training and the consistency of our dogs’ poop.

Jane and Pal

During this time of dog park bliss, I began reading Cesar Millan’s books. In his first book, Cesar’s Way, he says that the dog park should never be used as a substitute for a walk. He specifically says the dog park is not a place for dogs to work off excess energy. In fact, Millan says dogs should be walked for an hour prior to visiting the dog park. I trust Millan – he’s is a truly gifted behaviorist – so Jane and I started dividing our two-hour visits into one-hour walks at Lillie Park followed by one-hour romps at the dog park. (The two parks are right across the street from each other.) Not only did this add variety to our lunchtime outings, it provided me with a better workout and satisfied Jane’s hunting instincts. The walks in Lillie Park had a much greater impact on our bonding, too, because we were working in concert on a shared goal. Connected (literally, by a 50-foot lead) Jane and I migrated and hunted and, most important, communicated. It was on those lonely, bitter, winter walks through Lillie that Jane started making sustained eye contact with me, anticipating my moves, and reading my mind. It was on those walks that I’d get snappish with Jane when she wouldn’t listen to me and then apologize with kisses, and it was about that time that I started falling under her spell. Those are wonderful memories that I cherish. It was so cold, and Jane was so beautiful and energetic and undisciplined…

Eventually, our visits to the dog park got whittled down to half an hour every day, then a few minutes every other day. Now we hardly ever stop in. Jane can’t stand it anymore. When I force her to go she sulks around like a bored teenager. She really acts like she’s too cool for it. I took her today, and she shuffled around behind me for fifteen minutes before walking to the gate and giving me a “Can we go now?” look that I swear was followed by an eye roll. When we walked across the street to Lillie Park, she perked up. When we got in the woods her tail went up, she treed imaginary raccoons, and she even convinced me to veer off the trail, jump over ditches, and run through a field of weeds taller than I am. Her bored teen facade was replaced with an ear-to-ear isn’t-this-the-life grin.

Smiling Jane

  1. hoho Next, you’ll tell us Jane’s learned to say your name?
    Well, communication is wonderful… miraculous? one definition of “life” is: “communication/communion/interaction” with the environment…maybe “life” also includes eye-rollin’ ol’ dawgs…?

  2. Hi
    Enjoyed your site. I came here because I saw Jane’s pic on another and she looks so much like my dog Kelso, that I had to see more.
    I wanted to post you a picture but I don’t see a place to do that.
    Looks like you are having as much fun with Jane as we do with Kelso.
    She obviously found her home. Hounds are sure stubborn at times, but I found as soon as I just accepted the breed, rather then trying to make him a good dog, we came to an understanding and he now is a great dog.
    Hope you keep posting.

  3. Hi Colleen:

    Thanks for your visit and comment. I don’t know how to allow visitors to post pictures of their own, but I’ll look into that. I’d enjoy seeing Kelso.

    Thanks again,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: