13 July 2011

Dog park

Every morning I take my dog Tino, a 20 lb Mini Schnauzer, to the local dog park. I've found the regulars to be an eclectic mix -- a programmer, an aerospace engineer, a single mother of twin boys -- but they all have in common a love of dogs and a friendly attitude. Even though I've been going to the park for only three months, everyone seems to know me already. I suppose I'm hard to miss: I'm an AKA and have been on crutches for most of that time. It must be quite a spectacle, seeing me crutching around the one acre wooded park following Tino. My phone is in the front pocket of my cargo pants, a headset usually in my right ear, and colorful plastic bags left over from the previous Sunday's New York Times poke out of the other pockets.
Our visits to the park follow a predictable routine. At the entrance gate, Tino barks like mad to announce his arrival. Next he trots around the perimeter as if he were a sentry on duty, stopping to mark every tree and inspect all of the rocks (and marks most of them too). Three times I stoop to pick up after him; after that I know it's safe to let him wander without having to clean up after him again. Then I'll take a few minutes to check email or make a quick phone call before joining the other dog owners around a picnic table.
One of the regulars is also an amputee, an older man with two white German Shepherds. We met the first week I visited the park, and I learned that he's been an amputee since 1956. During the first couple of times we met we compared notes about prostheses and prosthetists, and talked about healing and tips for keeping liners clean. Now we've moved on to discussion of ordinary matters like our respective plans for summer vacation and what books we're reading now, but I will always treasure that opening conversation, the immediate intimacy and openness we both allowed, despite being strangers, because of the odd condition that we share.

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