All my life I have been the person at the party who spends more time with the pets than the people.
Having my own dog has made me slightly less likely to run up and hug other people’s dogs, but only slightly.
A few years back I was in a dog-friendly wine store in Manhattan, crouched down and loving on a sweet black dog that had come in. The dog’s name was Kevin, his owner said, and we discussed his sweetness. The owner happened to be the actor Peter Dinklage, of “Game of Thrones,” but I only had eyes for Kevin.
Millie Moo the Galactic Princess came into my life last March. She’s a border collie mix who loves cats and can whine-talk in several octaves. She had a hard act to follow, as Kiki de Montparnasse (aka The Wonder Dog) was an Australian shepherd mix who danced for every meal and could see into your soul, but she has proven herself up to the task.
Both Kiki and Millie quickly established themselves at the local dog parks, and in similar ways – primarily through a ceaseless desire to seek affection and/or treats from humans, but also thorough a shared passion for lying down and doing nothing. I live within equal distance of the Henry Anderson dog park (“the Carrboro one”) and the Southern Community Park in Chapel Hill (“the one near Southern Village.”) There are several of us who park-hop depending on our mood and the weather (it will always be muddier after a rain in Carrboro; you have to walk farther to get to the Southern Village one.)
But just as Garrison Keillor makes much of the great divide between St. Paul and Minneapolis for humorous effect, there are those who attribute vastly different personalities to the two dog parks, which I find alternately amusing and befuddling.
In Carrboro, so they say, it’s anything goes – owners just let their dogs do as they please; it’s a massive love-in with no rules and no discipline, full of troubled rescue dogs and hipster humans.
The Southern Village stereotype: aloof purebreds in fur coats, owners gathered under the gazebo with their lattes and the Wall Street Journal. (It’s absolutely true about the fur coats. And though there is in fact a gazebo, it’s really just a roof over a picnic table, and its proximity to a trash can make it a rather unsettling sensory experience.)
The truth is that the parks are both full of wonderful incongruities, human and canine. I have met doctors, musicians, students, grandparents, hairdressers, political operatives, teachers, brewers, and a leader of international birding exhibitions.
I have met Great Danes, Yorkies, Tibetan terriers, hounds of all types, all kinds of doodles, and all kinds of mutts, and even once a little black potbellied pig named Sugar (OK, yes – that was in Carrboro.)
I’ve made some awesome friends. There’s Katie, the aging Old English bulldog who comes running with a sideways lope when you call her name; Malachi, the black lab foster-fail who really looks more like a Francis; and Dingo, the 18-year-old little tan dog whose grumpiness somehow manages to be endearing. There’s Nila, the bluetick coonhound who barks and wags with equal enthusiasm; Pookie the West Highland terrier with a permanent smile; Echo, the white German shepherd who thoughtfully alternates which child in the family he sleeps with from night to night; and Baxter, the Corgi mix who takes time out on most visits to howl dolefully at nothing in particular, often inciting others to join him. Some of the friends I’ve made are even people, and sometimes we do things together that don’t involve dogs at all.
As it turns out, great dogs often have great people attached to them. There are plenty of both in Carrboro and Chapel Hill.
You can reach Amy at email@example.com.