Aug 132012
 

To show our support and need for this new dog park, we’re asking South Loop residents and dog lovers in Chicago to share what dog parks mean to them.  The second post in this series comes from Elizabeth Tyson, board member of the South Loop Dog PAC, and her Shih Tzu mix dog, Raul.

Raul was a surprise Valentine’s gift to myself in 1999.  I was single, seeking escape from graduate school, on a rural road trip with my best friend, and her dog BoBo. We were escaping, temporarily, from our academic responsibilities. On this particular escapist adventure, We made a stop to see some dogs. There, I met Raul, a Shih Tzu mixed breed. He was 5 months old then and  lived the first months of his life in a cage. He was born and rescued from a puppy mill, where he suffered and survived a deep cut that left a permanent scar across his back. Yet, in spite of his injury and solitary confinement, he was playing joyfully and lovingly with a companion stuffed rabbit, bigger by 1/2 than his puppy size. This was my first of a multitude of beautiful memories of Raul’s spirit. I wanted to meet and hold Raul. He held me back tightly, looked at me trustfully.  He communicated a need for care and love and I decided then and there to care and love him right back. So, Raul, his rabbit companion, my best friend, BoBo and I completed our road trip that day together.. 
Raul accompanied me through the next 12 years. Yet, despite the arguable fact of life’s uncertainty, Raul was my constant, unconditional source of joy. His visits to our dog park mirrored his joyful, social character seeking other dogs companionship. And, it offered me connection to others in my community.

 Raul and his dog park love:
One great source of joy for Raul was a long walk to our nearest dog park.  Raul loved to socialize.  As we got closer to the Wicker Park off-leash dog friendly area, his little bouncy gait sped to a gallup. Upon entering the dog park, Raul made somewhat of a dramatic entrance. With all his little might and courageous determination he went directly to run with the big dogs. Raul showed enthusiastic abandon throwing himself into the big, ‘cool dog’ play pack each and every visit. And, each visit, inevitably, Raul got rolled, knocked over, body slammed. Often, Raul had occasion to bark admonishingly at rough and tumble bullies in defense of smaller ‘friends’.  Then, inevitably, within a few short minutes, he was pushed out of the big dogs’ play group.  Yet, each time, Raul did not show any sign of sad defeat or retreat to seek my comfort.  No. Raul moved to the park entrance and sweetly assumed his place as, what came to be known by other dog owners, as the  “greeter”.  

‘What a dog park means to me’ is inseparable from my memory of what it meant to Raul. 
So, these are my thoughts about what a dog park means to me in memory of what it meant to Raul. In kind, I should say, I have met my dearest friends at dog friendly parks. These spaces build community, safety through dialogue, and people looking out for one another.

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