In the two years since adopting my mini-poodle, the dog park has become central to my life. I go there every day and see the other dog owners more than I see my own friends.

A dog by any other name

The first thing to know about the dog park is nobody’s ever going to know your name. Well, they might eventually, but human names are low priority. Dog names on the other hand are not.

Invariably, upon meeting a dog owner for the first time we inquire about our pets’ names and forget to mention our own. It’s not important. Remember this when naming your dog. Anything unclear will mean years of frustrating explanations ahead.

Take for example my dog, Jem. People repeat it back to me hesitantly, “Jim?” or, “Jam?” It’s a boy’s name (think Jem from ‘To Kill A Mockingbird”) but many start calling him Jemma and I have even been cautioned on one occasion with “you do know that’s a girls name?”. Hmm…

I don’t bother correcting people now so he gets called everything from Jim to Jamie. I don’t think he minds.

Forget exercise

The second thing to know about the dog park is that it means you’re not going to be exercising.

I had grand plans of enforced exercise – walking, and even running, my dog daily. How fit and healthy I was going to be! Not necessarily so.

It’s common practice to stand around in circles watching the dogs play. Even some dogs get lazy eventually. Taking their cue from their humans they stick close to the circle, perhaps having the occasional tumble with a friend but more likely sitting under people’s feet waiting for treats. Oh what a bad example we are!

Learn to love talking about dogs

At the dog park people stand around talking. About dogs. This shouldn’t be a problem because as a dog owner you’re most likely a dog lover and like nothing more than babbling on about your beloved. That’s good because you’re going to be doing a lot of it.

Much like a mother’s group there’s an endless stream of commentary about our furry babies. I often wonder when this source of conversation will dry up, but it doesn’t seem to. Getting past dog talk is rare but on the odd occasion it does happen you can discover interesting things, so keep your ears open.

Always remember – humans come second at the park. And that’s ok. This is your dog’s kingdom – their little slice of heaven – and it’s a beautiful thing to see them delight in it. Watching Jem enter the park, leaping and bouncing like a spring lamb, never fails to bring a smile to my face. That unfettered joy is a reminder every day of life’s simple pleasures.

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Kate Dougan

I’m a freelance designer, content producer and professional worrier! Just kidding. I’m not usually nearly as worried as I look here. I write, photograph, make films and design for web and print.

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