Now that we had a dog in the family, we were excited to do what dog people do, like go to the dog park, eat at pet-friendly restaurants and enjoy the general camaraderie of other responsible dog owners with poop bags at ready. Even before we adopted Gianna and were just walking her around the adoption event, other people gave us the look like, "You're one of us." How exciting.
Like babies learning to walk, we were learning and trying to be dog people by observation, and we took our first steps the day after we adopted Gianna. We went to our regular breakfast place, Shakabrah, and tied Gianna up to the bike racks outside, just like dog people do. She did great. Encouraged by our success, we took her to the pet store (she's picky about food), Chamber's Bay for lunch and off to Fort Steilacoom dog park to see how she'd do off leash.
I was a little nervous about removing the leash, an umbilical cord of assurance, at the 22-acre park. Again, she did great. We walked the perimeter and greeted a lot of dogs. She never strayed beyond 20 yards and always looked back to check where we were. We played fetch with the ball and she was awesome, catching and retrieving and weaving through distractions back and forth, back and forth. She made us look good. We hadn't trained her, we just took credit for it.
While Gianna was a rock star, and the other dogs we encountered were all friendly, their owners were another story.
People were having parties and breed club meetings at the dog park. For the size of the park, it was quite clean and well-maintained, thanks to responsible dog owners and the sheer mass of the place that no municipality of dog crap could cover otherwise. But having a human social party there? Weird. Most people kept to themselves, as I would imagine, but there were times when Gianna would go to greet another dog, ass-to-nose, and me and/or Amanda would have to make small talk with the owners. Conversation would consist of identifying everything having to do with our dog or theirs -- name, age, ownership duration, favorite games, etc. We'd never catch or share information about ourselves, and that was fine. We were there for the dogs.
That was until we ran into a family with their own family of dogs that descended on us in some Shock and Awe campaign of fur and fury. We were keeping to ourselves and Gianna had taken a water break when they arrived. The five or six dogs took over the portable water bowl. The matriarch tried having a personal (gasp!) conversation with us, distracting us from her dogs stealing Gianna's water.
AND THEN, AND THEN, SHE HAD THE NERVE TO TAKE OUT HER WATER BOTTLE AND REFILL OUR DOG'S WATER BOWL WITH MORE WATER FOR HER DOGS TO CONTINUE TO DRINK OUT OF. NOT JUST THAT, SHE FILLED IT TWICE! ANARCHY! FOR SHAME!
You want to know why London is burning? That was the moment. Poor Gianna had to wait at the back of the line just to get back to her own water bowl. We were really done with the dog park just before the family of vultures arrived, and we waited 15 minutes for them to prey on the next folks down the trail. Fifteen minutes of watching her dogs drink, 15 painful minutes of small talk.
All in all, the dog park was a good place considering the experience we were able to have learning and trusting our dog. But some of those people... some of those people should stay on leash.