A well-worn path runs around the circumference of the five-plus acre dog park we visit on Thursdays. From the dog-lock (double gate), my boxer-cross sighted his kind at the north end of the park. I unsnapped his leash and released him from his impatient heel. His paws kicked up a low cloud of gravel dust as he raced toward them. The pack he joined was ranging over the tussocks and slopes that bordered the path but, from my vantage point, I could see they never left the orbit of the cluster of owners who were trudging anti-clockwise around the perimeter of the park.
At first, I hurried along in my dog’s wake, trying to catch up to the cluster. The biting north wind stole my breath. When I paused to tug the hood of my sweatshirt from under my coat collar, a radical thought struck me: I didn’t have to follow the path. I could instead cut across the frozen but snow-less meadow, and meet the group after they swung southward again.
The dogs noticed me immediately, of course. For just a heartbeat, I swear, they considered. Then – led by my dog and a sleek German Shepard – they came leaping into the un-trampled grass. Even the smallest dog – a beagle I think – plunged in. He bayed as he chased his long-legged companions.
The canines didn’t come to me. They investigated an iced-over puddle, a prickly-looking bush and a big stick – which inspired an enthusiastic game of keep away.
Not a single human left the path.
It wasn’t long before the calling and whistling began. One by one, the dogs returned to their owners. Having crossed the meadow, I fell into line with my dog.
Tonight, I’m wondering why I did that.