Tim has found a new — free! — pastime: the dog park.
There’s one less than three miles from our house, making it easy for Tim to take Pandora there to let some of her ya-yas out. And his ya-yas, for that matter.
He initially experimented with different times of the day but ultimately decided that 10 a.m. to noon is best for him. That’s mainly because he found a group of people (and dogs) that he and Pandora click with.
Part of the appeal is that these people are serious regulars. One of the guys is like Tim and believes in bringing his dog every day. The rest tend to come at least four times a week.
They all get along, and of course everyone loves Pandora. Tim definitely doesn’t mind hearing praise about how well trained she is and how gentle she is with the smaller dogs (even when wrestling).
Even better, the friendship is starting to extend beyond the park. Tim’s already gone over to one guy’s apartment a couple of times to hang out, and they text back and forth a bit. Mainly about the park, but not always.
A fun, frugal time
But it’s not just about socializing. It’s also excellent free entertainment.
Tim’s gotten me to come a few times. While I’m not as into it as he is, I’ll readily admit that it’s fun to watch the dogs interact and play with toys. And the people in his group are fun to chat with. Meanwhile, we’re not spending a cent. In fact, you could argue that the park is actually saving us money.
Everyone brings a dog toy or two from home, and they’re pretty generous about letting other dogs use them. So we no longer have to make a trip to Petsmart to let Pandora play with new toys.
And if we do get her a new one, it’s something we’ve seen her enjoy at the dog park. So we know that it won’t be a waste of money. But those purchases will be few and far between (especially with our recent tax issue).
In fact, the only new toy we’ve gotten her in months is the Nerf Tennis Ball Blaster. That was more for Tim, who kept wrenching his arm throwing balls at the park. Someone let him try theirs out, and he (and Pandora) loved it. So when I found one on sale for $10, it was an easy decision — especially since the original blaster had just broken and wasn’t going to be replaced.
The dog park is also helping lessen Tim’s social anxiety. Being part of a group means he doesn’t have to worry about striking up conversations with strangers. And when new people do come around it’s okay because:
- Having his group there gives him a bit more confidence.
- He and the new person automatically have something in common
- If the conversation falters, he knows others in the group will pitch in with questions
- Silence isn’t awkward if you’re just quietly watching dogs play.
But probably the biggest benefit has been that Tim’s getting a little more active. It’s in small ways, but ones that are huge for him: standing for 15 minutes at a time, throwing a frisbee, and walking 40ish feet to pick up a ball that Pandora didn’t fetch, etc.
Three months ago he was at a physical nadir. He’d barely be able to leave bed two or even three days a week. He’d only sit up because it’d hurt (even more) to lie down for too long. So he’d lie down until he couldn’t take it, sit up until he couldn’t take it, lie back down and generally pray for sleep.
Since he started going to the dog park daily, things have gotten better. There’s still at least one day a week where he’s in a lot of (extra) pain after the park and can’t really do much. And in general the daily trips always take a fair chunk out of his energy and make him a little bit more sore.
But at least there’s activity to blame for some of the discomfort and tiredness. When you’re chronically ill, there’s something very comforting about having a reason for feeling so bad — even if it only explains part of the pain or exhaustion.
Do you use your local dog park?
P.S. Check out the blog’s Facebook page for upcoming pics of adorable dogs from the park and/or videos of them playing.