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Call Off the Dogs


You know you’re at a Boulder County dog park, when the dog humping your dog is wearing a hunter green organic wool sweater on a 60-degree spring day.

His owner barely blushes.

“Stewart!” she yells, startlingly herself with her own volume. “Stewart! Get over here.”

Stewart gets one more sturdy thrust in and trots over to his human guardian. She leans low, sticks out her pointer finger and gives him a quiet lecture. Stewart looks up at her earnestly, eyes big and apologetic. He can barely make eye contact. When she’s done, the chubby Chihuahua turns and runs back to a crowd of dogs clustered around a man throwing a tennis ball. When they run, Stewart runs after the dogs—not the ball.

Stewart will hump again. The lecture has gone in one winged ear and out the other. For all his guardian’s efforts—the long talks, the expensive training—Stewart will continue to do the one thing his guardian finds most embarrassing, and he will love every minute of it.

That is because Stewart is a dog, and at the dog park, dogs act like dogs. Their personalities come shining through with full abandon. If they are fearful dogs, they tend to cower beneath their owners legs. If they are humpers like Stewart, they will find some poor soul to denigrate. If they are social, they will run and jump and sniff and snort as they enjoy their newfound friends.

But for us owners, the dog park extracts our paternal instincts.

Here, the line between dog and child is often blurred. Dogs wear sweaters and luxury collars. Owners guffaw as their canines splash through mucky water and mud. Regulars form motherly packs that chitchat. They brag and boast.

Here, we don’t have names. We are simply the people who bring other dogs to play with Oscar, Sammy or Ginger.

I began exploring this odd world a few months ago. Well, that’s not totally true. I’ve been a Boulder County dog park frequenter for years. Until the beginning of March, I’ve been a once-a-week kind of dog-park person.

But in March, I decided to shake up my life. Instead of being a hardworking magazine editor, I decided I wanted to be a hardworking freelancer. I went from working 9 to 7 (later on deadlines) at an office in Erie to working when I wanted where I wanted…usually in the extra bedroom of our Lafayette home. There, I’d sit down to work each day, and around 10am my dog would begin to whine. Not just an occasional whimper—but a constant high-pitched bleat broken only by loud harrumphs. This dog wanted attention, wanted to run free, and the backyard just wasn’t doing it. So we began near-daily trips to local dog parks almost every morning.


email no info send march17th/09

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