Play

I have a kitten, and a chest infection. Life is awesome, and it sucks. I’m sleeping in my armchair tonight because I’m in danger of drowning when I lie down. Somehow I’ve graduated from breathing air to a mix of razor blades and wall paper paste. I’m mostly doing ok except for moments when I run out of patience with all this and curl into a small ball to cry. Rose took Zoe and myself to the dog park this afternoon (trying to make sure the pre – existing pets don’t feel left out) where a great dane harassed her. He’d flip get onto her back and nip at her stomach, growling. It didn’t get real bad but she was stressed so we put the lead back on her to maintain some level of control in splitting them up. She was snarling and unhappy with hackles up, ears back, and tail tucked tightly between her legs. The owner of the dane was ignoring it. Frustratingly the folks there harassed us instead of helping out. Several told us off for having her on the lead and one tried to tell us the lead was the problem. Felt painfully visible as a ‘gay couple’. Zoe was interacting fine with all the other dogs but it wasn’t playful with the dane. We left and walked her in a park on lead instead, then took her to another dog park we hadn’t tried before. That went well, when a couple of the dogs got a bit stressed with each other, both owners split them up and put them back on leads for a few minutes until they were settled and distracted. Then they played fine. I think we’ll be going back there instead. This is what most of my attempts to get a photo of Zoe at a dog park look like:It’s startling how vulnerable I felt at the first dog park tonight, that sense once again that I live in a bubble where it is normal to be gay, mentally ill, disabled… And outside that bubble are people who don’t like it, accept it, understand it, and wouldn’t protect me. Some of whom would hurt me.

Dog parks are a mixed deal. To let Zoe run off lead and pay with other dogs is a joy! Nothing in the world makes her happier. But things go wrong too. There’s a lot of dogs who don’t know each other running around. Some people bring intact dogs and bitches in heat to parks. Some people just let the dogs go and do no supervising. Occasionally things get out of hand and sometimes dogs get hurt.

I’m watchful with Zoe, she’s a boufy bouncy pup still and can scare little dogs. If she’s playing roughly I put her back on a lead, so the smaller dog can run up to her to pay, and get away from her easily if it’s getting overwhelmed. It’s worked well so far and she’s been great. This dane is a big dominating dog who picks one dog out of the park to chase down, and will continue even if the other dog gets really stressed. I’ve watched it bowl a dog over to chew playfully on its ears for an hour until the other dog was really unhappy. I’ve seen it bail a stressed dog up on the table where the smaller dog has hackles up, is snarling, barking, and whining. It’s play for him, if he wanted to hurt them they’d be hurt. But if it’s not play for other dog anymore, it’s not play. It’s not fun, it’s not okay. At some point a stressed smaller dog will really bite him, and then things will go downhill badly. My job is to keep Zoe out of that kind of situation. It was kind of scary to have a whole group of dog owners there who didn’t get that.

Makes me think how often we’re still trying to get that message across in so many different areas of human life – play is only play when both parties are having fun. If only one of you is having fun we call it other things.

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