Dog Days

After reading articles complaining about dogs, I recommend Sebastopol’s dog park in Ragle Ranch Regional Park as a good place for those four-footeds and their two-footed human companions. We socialize, frolic, share stories, argue and teach each other, as well as build community among these two distinct species. Given political, lifestyle, ethnic, gender, class, generational and other differences, humans do not always get along so well.

“Sebastopol’s dog park is like the old community water well, where differences are suspended,” says one regular. “What binds us together is our love of all things dog. Watching dogs dancing with each other is fun.” Dogs are sensuous, in their bodies, in present time, rather than stuck in the past or futurizing.

Though I’ve lived in Sebastopol for over two decades, I first entered the dog park two years ago after a puppy adopted me. I was not looking for a dog; Winnie apparently sought a human companion. She jumped into my arms at Sebastopol’s farmers market. The Cazadero family into which she was born—where they hunt boar—eventually insisted that I take her home. I resisted, then surrendered.

Winnie is a Catahoula leopard hound with a six-colored coat. She is fast, fierce and sweet, and has two differently-colored eyes. Winnie likes to growl and bark, as invitations to play. Learning to growl, for both dogs and humans, can set boundaries. I laugh more than usual at the dog park.

Sebastopol is dog-friendly. Issues do arise in the streets and at stores. Some find Winnie too intense. So there are issues and conflicts at the park. Different points of view—sometimes uninvited—on how to properly care for dogs emerge. Winnie’s energy is too much for some, including me at times. I am fortunate that Winnie has connected well with other humans, who help take care of her. “It takes a village to raise a dog” is certainly true.

Dogs have become my teachers. They express love in different ways, including what could be called “tough love.” Many dogs engage in “necking,” since their skin tends to be lose and they can pull without hurting.

Shepherd Bliss farms, teaches college and has contributed to 24 books. He can be contacted at [email protected].

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