The doggie daycare looked like heaven compared to my lawn which was full of brambles and weeds. Through the fence I could see a perfectly manicured yard, a little obstacle course for the hounds to run through, a doggie pool where a golden retriever shook his coat freely, with almost a wry smile only a happy puppy could give. One small dog chased a soccer ball snapping at it fruitlessly as it moved across the soft Kentucky bluegrass, and the rest of the half dozen dogs had broken off into small groups of four, sniffing each other in an endless congo line adventure. This small patch of green was the place where all dogs would go to heaven.
I noticed something interesting about the dogs. There was very little barking. I thought the place would be an endless chorus of howls and little fights. But the dogs didn’t do that. They sniffed each other in circles. The odd bark here and there was followed quickly by a submissive pose as the dog would lower on his haunches. I’m sure the bark said, “Let’s play!” The other dog would return it and they would chase each other a bit and then it was back to sniffing. Happy excited barks replaced the usual growls I was used to when passing a dog on the other side of a fence.
I was surprised that so many different breeds of dogs each from a stranger's house could get along. The staff was minimal. There were perhaps forty dogs running around but only four people watching them. I expected to see a spat but for the hour I watched I never heard a growl. During my time observing the animals, I got this familiar feeling, like I had seen this sort of behavior before. The way the dogs paired off with each other in small groups of four or so reminded me of Oasis. If you don’t know what Oasis is, imagine a church service but instead of having a pastor you had guest speakers like a TED talk. The meeting starts with announcements, followed by a community moment where a member of the organization would come and talk about anything on his mind. After that was live music from a local musician. When the music ended we would all be told there would be a fifteen-minute break before the main speaker began his presentation.
If one were to take a drone helicopter and fly over all of us out of our chairs they would see strangers wondering over and forming small groups of people to talk to. Those who drank coffee sat near the station and conversed. Those interested in getting to get know about the organization would head toward the back table, read pamphlets and talk. And the rest would find themselves being greeted by the person next to them.
Oasis even had the staff to make sure the organization was running smoothly! I didn’t hear any barking or see any sniffing while I was there, thankfully, but I did see friends being made. I saw people introduce each other through handshakes, laughter and sharing ideas. As I watched the groups form, I thought to myself, “What would this look like without language?” All I could picture was that dog park. The people here were looking for a safe place to be themselves, where everyone could get together and enjoy a perfect Sunday afternoon, and for fifteen minutes sip warm coffee while they introduced themselves to a stranger. I felt like I too had found my park.