Newsflash: You just can’t believe everything you hear on the news.

But you already knew that!

Mind you, I often keep my opinions to myself on certain subjects. It’s just better that way. Besides, my opinions are just that. Mine. Most of them are neither right or wrong. They can be grounded in experience, visceral feelings, education (or lack thereof), intuition, and emotions. I rarely try to sway anyone’s opinion that is different from my own…except when it comes to smoking (plain evil) and bicycle helmets (wear them for heaven’s sake!). Rocket-man would sometimes disagree that I don’t try to sway folks—and he would (sometimes) be right. On occasion my opinions come flying out fast and furious at him with the expectation (unreasonable, I know) that he agrees with me 100%. OK, I am not perfect! But, he is my husband after all. There is blissful security in knowing that I can share whatever lies within my heart and soul and in so doing, I process, digest, learn and even change my mind. Really! I pride myself on respecting other points of view (especially when I’m not in agreement). Life would be pretty bland indeed if we all thought exactly alike. It’s OK to agree to disagree.

So yesterday, Rocket-man and I decided to check out the new dog park in town. It’s been advertised for a couple of weeks now. Since moving to Alabama, The Poodle has not been to a dog park. I think he is depressed by this. It’s just dog parks aren’t prolific in our area. I tell Rocket-man it’s because these Alabama folks would rather let their dogs roam un-leashed in order to terrorize cyclists.

The Poodle, taking a break.

The Poodle, in Southern California, pondering  chasing his best friend, another poodle.

 

When we lived in Southern California The Poodle used to frequent the dog park twice a week, sometimes more. There were four dog parks within a six mile-radius. Trips to the dog park was a very easy thing to do and our visits were a great way to socialize with other dog owners. We’d share stories and swap and learn strategies for being better dog owners.  The dog parks there were, for the most part, extremely well maintained.  They were well-cleared open spaces, often landscaped with wood chips or mulch areas, and there was always access to water inside the park.

At the dog park, The Poodle would run like crazy for a half-hour or so chasing his orange tennis ball as well as other dogs. His sporadic humping behavior on some dogs often made for embarrassing (and comical) moments at the dog park. Sometimes I’d pretend to be busy on my iPhone, letting Rocket-man deal with the embarrassing behavior of my “child.” More than anything, it was annoying. Our veterinarian explained that humping (especially for older, fixed dogs) isn’t always sexual in nature. Dominance plays a role as well. More likely, it was simply that my fixed, four-legged bundle of love was just overly excited to be out playing with other dogs and his humping behavior was not only part of playing with dogs but a display of dominance as well. Naturally, each time he’d hump we’d have to nip it in the bud…diverting his attention. And for the record (read my smugness) my dog wasn’t the only kid that needed discipline. One dog park visit, which was appropriately named “Hump  Day,” had as many as twenty owners peeling in fits of laughter as ALL the dogs were humping. It was as if an infection had seized all the dogs in the park.

Despite the chilly temperatures, the sun was shining so we said “Go car” to The Poodle and he happily bolted for the car and jumped in the back seat in one seamless flash.

“I wish you were this eager to go out on your morning walk,” I said in gentle admonishment. Usually he’s curled up in his bed and I have to almost drag him to the door. Not so when you utter those two words, “Go car.” He can be sound asleep but when he hears those two words he ‘s up and dashing to the garage door as excited as a kid at a water slide park.

We make the drive, which is a bit of a hike from where we live, to the new dog park. As we make our way up the driveway into the park we see that parking will be a bit challenging. Lots of people—and their dogs—had already arrived. The parking area wasn’t paved so I had to navigate the rough, muddy terrain looking for a decent spot.

We put the leash on The Poodle who was positively bursting with excitement and we made our way to the fenced-in dog park area. My own excitement was immediately crushed as we stood just outside the gate to access the dog area. Firstly, the dog park was not separated into large and small dog areas. It was one very large area for ALL dogs. If you’re a dog owner, you understand the problem with this.

Maybe this will be rectified at some point, I thought. After all, it’s opening day.

Secondly, as a security measure, there should be a double-gate access into the dog park.  An entry-way, as it were, where you can safely remove (or put on) your dog’s leash before accessing another gate into the park, without risk that the dog —all discipline out the window— will dash off.  We stepped inside the dog park and immediately Rocket-man and I were supremely disappointed.

“This is it?” I looked around incredulously.

All they did was take a swampy area and put a fence around it. We were walking over big branches, rocks and other debris, through mud and muck, and a dense wooded area that soon would be in full bloom.

The Poodle playing in a SoCal dog park.

The Poodle playing in a SoCal dog park.

“This will be awful in just a few shorts weeks …and what about snakes?!”  There isn’t even a water spigot for the dogs (you had to exit the park in order for dogs to drink water).   We stayed ten minutes, eight minutes longer than expected, only because The Poodle was happy to be running around with other dogs. We talked with a few other dog owners and they shared similar opinions. “It’s going to be a useless area after just a few drops of rain,” said one fellow. “I cannot believe this place was so hyped. It’s a mess!” said another.

As we left the fenced area we were stopped by a lovely young woman with long jet black hair and intense ruby-red lips. She was a reporter with the local ABC station. She even shared that she had just moved to Alabama from Southern California and that yes, she was having a difficult time adjusting to life away from the sun and fun of California.  She asked, off the record, how we liked the new dog park.

“I’m sorry to be negative but I give it a resounding thumbs down,” I said.

She then asked if I would like to share my opinion in an interview to be broadcast on the 5 and 10 p.m. news. “Sure,” I said though I’m going to be honest and give it a negative rating.”

“That’s fine,” she said.

Thankfully I knew I looked pretty spiffy in my Ray-Ban aviator shades and my favorite Life is Good baseball cap.  So, I gave my 60-second spiel simply stating: “It needs more work to make it a good dog park. I hope the city follows-up on some suggestions. If nothing else, the area needs to be cleared of the dense trees, vines and bramble brush. And it would be really helpful to put down some wood chips and provide a separate area for small dogs.”

A 5 p.m. Rocket-man and I turned on the evening news, in eager anticipation of seeing moi (and The Poodle) on T.V. Sure enough, the dog park segment was a featured story. And, although The Poodle made his T.V. debut, my interview was nowhere to be seen. Only positive accounts were reported. This gave Rocket-man and I a good laugh. We figured this would happen.

But of course. One-sided reporting. Just confirms one cannot believe everything reported in the news. There is always another side to the story.

So while I didn’t make it on T.V. and the dog park was a bust to us, at least The Poodle was happy.  There is bliss in that. 🙂