Yesterday we took our Lab and Wolfhound mix, Boomer, to the Urbana Dog Park. Before I talk too much about our experience, I want to take a second to recommend the bejeezus out of the dog park to any local readers. It’s gigantic. The dogs are a hoot. The owners are friendly.
Our backyard is only partially fenced, so Boomer has to be leashed when we take him out. And even though a co-worker highly recommended the local dog park and we’d discussed taking Boomer many times, we had lots of legitimate reasons for not getting around to it. Most of them are related to our health; between my fibro and his psoriatic arthritis, we make a real pair!
But we were also waiting for Boomer to respond better to our commands.
“Want to put on a hat and go to the dog park with us?” Dan asked. Yesterday’s weather was gorgeous. So gorgeous that we had the windows open all day. No question it was the perfect day to give it a try.
“Um,” I hesitated, “Sure, but I need a little time to psych myself up.”
Leaving the house is a serious undertaking for me. I know I should do it more, but it is so hard. First of all, it requires putting on real clothes, including a bra. Bra straps are torturous for me, because they put pressure on trigger points at the base of my neck, shoulders, and back.
Going out also requires standing and walking—activities most people don’t consider actual activities so much as ways to complete actual activities like going to a concert, putting in eight hours at work, or taking the kids to a pool party.
For me, however, standing, walking, and physical exertion instantly lead to vertigo. I’ve taken some pretty hard falls as a result, and those falls have always led to all-over pain flare-ups and a healthy fear of walking around.
Three minutes later, Dan was ready to go.
“Now?” I said. Hoping for more time. “I just ate.” (I should probably also mention that eating slows me down even more. The only thing I can figure is that all of my body’s limited energy is used for digestion, so muscle coordination and strength are out the window.)
Poor Dan had to keep Boomer in line and deal with me hanging on his arm. Uneven ground is my nemesis. (Note to self: it’s probably time to suck it up and get a walking cane.) Fortunately, the 10-acre dog park has lovely benches nestled under giant, shady trees.
While the guys ran off to play, I watched dozens of dogs having the time of their life. One little Aussie shepherd mix approached me with a red Frisbee in her mouth. Her owner was chatting with someone a few feet away. She dropped the Frisbee at my feet and gave me a pleading look. So I threw it.
It didn’t go far, but she didn’t seem to mind. She chased after it and came back, deliberately dropping it at my feet after each retrieval. Before long, a slightly overweight retriever brought me a tennis ball, and half a dozen other dogs came and offered me a chance to give them a good scratch behind the ears.
My shoulder is sore from throwing dog toys, but it was so much fun. Not only was I accepted and included despite my shortcomings, but Boomer had the time of his life. In fact, Dan went to the rec center today to purchase the annual membership. No more one-day passes for us!