Storming the Bark Park with a loaner dog

by Joe Murphy

Bailey, a three-year-old full-blooded golden retriever, with her owner at the Guilford County Dog Park.(photo by Joe Murphy)

Last Sunday evening I went to the dog park with two of my compatriots to give Bailey, my friend’s dog, some exercise. Our friend Mr. Wayne tagged along in hopes that Bailey would serve as an icebreaker for any young female dog owners.

Bailey is a majestic beast — a 3-year-old purebred Golden Retriever who seeks human interaction the way that a reality television star seeks the glow of a camera. But unlike a reality star, Bailey’s heart and intentions are pure.

Whenever I visit his owner’s house, Bailey goes into a frenzy: leaping up on my lap when I sit down, not calming until she gets petted, stroked and rubbed. When I stop petting her for more than three seconds she paws at my hand until I resume.

But Bailey is still a beast (though a majestic one) and within a minute after getting out of the car at the Guilford County Dog Park she took a majestic dump all over the sidewalk. Though Bailey is incredibly comfortable with people, she isn’t accustomed to interacting with other dogs. Despite her pleasant demeanor, she is still the type of dog to chase a squirrel or other varmint around the backyard, catch it in her mouth and drop the poor critter’s bloodied corpse at her owner’s feet, beaming expectantly upward with pride.

Once we got to the fenced in, leashfree area of the Dog Park, Bailey ignored the other dogs strolling the grounds and stuck close to our triumvirate like an acne-riddled adolescent at his first school dance. Other dogs approached her and she dodged them by hiding behind our legs. Her owner brought her to the water fountain to drink, but Baluga (one of Bailey’s nicknames, along with Sweet, Sweet Basil) refused hydration.

After ambling around the grounds some more and only straying farther than 20 feet from us, we decided to take her back to the car (alas, there were no stray human females to keep our attention).

Following the paved path shrouded by pines, oaks and dogwoods back to our cars behind the Natural Science Museum, I took Bailey’s reins. I broke out in a trot and she kept up so I lengthened my stride and sped up my pace until she was at full gallop. Bailey could have run all the way back to her house, but my lung capacity is less than stellar, so we slowed our roll.

Bailey seemed to finally ease up after her brief sprint. She allowed her hind legs to swing back and forth in an exaggerated motion, taunting the other dogs who passed by with her pronounced rear and flickering tail.

The dogs passing by — two of whom were Bailey’s size or bigger — barked and lunged at her while their owners tugged hard on their leashes to hold them back. But Bailey paid them no attention. She never lunged or barked in response, never even broke her now-comfortable stride. It’s this type of behavior that causes her owner to use words like “tease” and “prude” when describing her. Other people might recognize those same qualities as signs of a well trained and well behaved pet.

As we approached our vehicles, a family with small children and no dog crossed us on the cement path. A boy, no older than six, was in Bailey’s path but rather than averting course to avoid her, he bravely but cautiously approached the beast Baluga.

“She’s nice. You can pet her,” I said.

The boy reached behind Bailey’s floppy ear and stroked the tuft of hair behind it. Bailey wagged her tail brisker than usual for a brief instant. The boy kept walking and Bailey got in the car and went home.