Our energetic year-old puppy loves to play with other dogs, so when our city opened an off-leash park a few blocks away from us, she was in heaven. She has little interest in running after a ball there. She just wants to play – with each and every one of the dogs she finds.
This whole dog thing is still pretty new to me. (Ask my friends how many of them thought I would ever be writing about my dog, and the answer would be a big zero). I was wary of the crowds of canines when we first started going to the park, but we’re regulars now.
This morning, she dragged me as fast as she could toward the gate leading to her freedom. Sensing a new playmate, other dogs raced up to meet her. One of them was a pit bull. I have always been a little afraid of these dogs, so I was nervous as I opened the latch on the gate.
Our excitable Borador (black lab-border collie mix) and the pit bull sniffed each other out for a millisecond before they ran off together. They were joined by a docile cocker spaniel, two boisterous golden retrievers and a little Westy with a face right off a can of dog food.
Our last visit, she ran around with a chipper Chihuahua, a stately Siberian husky, and a rambunctious Rottweiler. When she was just a tiny puppy, a huge Bernese mountain dog approached her and I was terrified, only to see that mammoth dog cuddle up to her and place a protective paw on her back.
At the dog park, black, brown and white dogs run around with abandon. I’ve seen dogs with three legs, dogs with one eye, purebreds and mixed breeds mingle without a thought. If a dog misbehaves, he is removed by his owner and likely won’t be back.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we were so accepting of those not like us?
Imagine if we didn’t judge people based on the color of the skin or their ethnic background. If we didn’t make assumptions based on their short skirts or hoodies or hijabs or tattoos. If we didn’t care who they love or how they worship or what they do for a living. If we didn’t prejudge an entire group based on the bad actions of a few of its members.
I was scared of pit bulls because I’ve seen horror stories about attacks by these dogs. But the one my dog made friends with today was nothing like I’d imagined. When it was time for him to leave, my dog followed him up the hill and watched longingly as he walked away with his owner.
Yes, I know I’m oversimplifying, and I am in no way comparing any human being to a dog. I just would love to live in a world in which everyone is welcome, where newcomers are greeted at the door without prejudice. I think when we open our minds to those who are different than us and get to know them, we discover that we have a lot in common. Most of us just want to be accepted for who we are and judged on our behavior rather than any preconceived notions or the actions of another.
I hope that pit bull is back again tomorrow. He taught me a lot.