Random Conversations

Life Lessons from the Dog Park

Life Lessons from the Dog Park

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The Joy of Play

I stood at the edge of the dog park at Madison Square Park with a big smile on my face, breathing in the joyful energy emanating from within. I watched as a group of dogs approached and interacted with each other and couldn’t help but think how much we can learn from them.

It Can be Lonely at the Top

Five or six dogs raced to the top of the hill and didn’t quite know what to do with each other. One ran down, and then another. Finally, one remained as king (queen?) of the mountain. Standing alone, however, was deeply dissatisfying.

Barks invited friends back, but they were having too much fun together at the base of the hill. Ultimately, the reigning dog ran down to join the others in some delightful frolicking.

Being at the top may not be the end-all and be-all if we lose our friends along the way.

Sharing is Way More Fun than Playing Alone

A dog and its frisbee were inseparable, as the dog held tight to it and chewed on its edges. A human stepped in to throw the frisbee and the dog shot off to retrieve it, only to return and continue holding onto its prize.

Another dog observed and thought it might be fun to join in the frisbee game but understood that care needed to be taken. A gentle approach followed – nuzzling noses, a tentative nibble on the frisbee. Once it was deemed safe, and maybe even welcomed, the frisbee was snatched and a race ensued.

Approaching respectfully can coax others to open themselves to an interaction.

Let People Get to Know You – and Get to Know Them

As might be guessed, there’s a whole lot of butt sniffing at the dog park. Humans also sniff but do so metaphorically.

We take a step forward to assess how comfortable we feel. And those we approach have the choice to accept that entreaty. Once we recognize we are in a safe space, we can move forward and start playing – or working, or whatever else we do together.

Be willing to share the essence of who you are as you explore the essence of others.

Be Open to Play

I watched as a dog sat alone and chewed on a tennis ball until boredom ensued. Then, ball in mouth, the dog got up and placed it gently at the front paws of another dog as an invitation to play. The opportunity to share joy was eagerly accepted.

Life can be fraught with difficulties, but the power of joy cannot be understated.

Saying yes to the opportunity to engage with each other can be quite delicious!

A Reflection

Two dog parks are side-by-side at Madison Square Park – one for small dogs and one for large. Medium-sized dogs have a choice.

What I find interesting about the small dog park is that so many of the dogs can be found sitting on the bench next to their human. They intently watch the others play, but their comfort is more with two-legged beings rather than four.

And isn’t that a perfect microcosm of the world outside of the park? We can choose how we engage with life as it unfolds around us. We can simply observe, or we can jump in and interact with it – or both.

Perhaps it is the balance of solitude and camaraderie that can best feed our soul. And when we’re ready to play, there’s always a metaphorical ball we can place at the foot of another who will be happy to say yes.

Madison Square Park Photo by the Author

Cathy Joseph is the author of the Random Conversations blog and is currently seeking representation for her book, The Art of Having a Delicious Conversation.

© 2022 Cathy Joseph. All rights reserved.

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