There are many signs of spring struggling to show themselves this wet and dreary April, flowering magnolias, children’s laughter, bicycles, fools in shorts, but for me it’s the dog walkers that I truly wait for. Streaming from the condos like ants from tree roots, the feint of hearted finally appear in droves. Often following doggedly behind, is a fairweather photographer hiding behind trees, in between bushes, or even camouflaging herself as an innocent sitting still on a park bench.
I find many people are wary of a stranger in sunglasses, with a foot long camera lens aimed at them, and so often I have to yell out, “I swear, it’s only the dog I want”, which I think probably only heightens their sense of uncertainty, especially if they have children nearby! But, honestly, it really is just the dogs with their boisterous energy, and “God, I love the Park” smiles, that I enjoy capturing on film, or whatever we call it now.
Luckily, there is one common element amongst dog owners that allows me to continue my quest without police intervention, and that is an innate desire within owners to not only walk their dogs, but to TALK about their dogs, to pretty much anyone who will stop long enough to listen. Hey, I’m not judging, I am a dog lover, and animal lover, and will equivocate with stories of past and present furry friends for long enough to cause serious sun burn. It has happened, just ask Jennifer Spence, owner of Emma the King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, who lives only a few buildings over. (Both seen below with permission)
Our first meeting was both exuberant and lengthy last spring, and we each suffered some serious sun sickness as a result. In a “six degrees of separation” kind of karma, we had discovered we both came from the same small town in Chatham-Kent, and even shared relatives. Now, it takes some serious digression from “Hey, what’s your dog’s name?”, to find all that information out! Indeed, that is thanks to another common dog owner characteristic I have found while stalking Fido around a public park. Dog owners are usually very, very friendly, perhaps notwithstanding Pitbull owners in black leather jackets and studs, which I generally avoid stalking altogether. Just call it canine instinct.
Speaking of black…today, which was a beautiful Sunday afternoon in late April, appeared to be a formal gala here at Reaume Park, as most of the dogs were in tuxedos and tails (no pun intended), and Black and White were the “vogue” colours. The beautiful Landseer mix named Panda was the first to greet me, and the eleven year old Rescue from Michigan belied his uncertain background, with a dignity and grace true to the breeds’ historic and dramatic heritage of rescuing humans at sea.
Chandler, typical of his Shih Tzu heritage, was dining in formal attire at his owner’s table, but in a somewhat less dignified manner, when he was seen sharing, instead of serving! To be fair to Chandler, he was having nothing to do with the weird woman and her big black instrument of horror around her neck, and screamed “DANGER, STRANGER” to all who would listen until I retreated from his personal space, which pretty much included the entire park, according to him. His owners were very kind to me, and picked him up, despite my interruption of their Sunday afternoon picnic. It was I, rather than the dog, that skulked away with my tail between my legs in derision of my failure to Ceasar Milan my way into his favour.
Thus, while others await the opening of ice cream parlours and soccer fields, I will continue to watch unsuspecting dog walkers from my balcony, looking for photo opportunities and then enjoy both meeting the owners, and capturing the character and individuality of their dogs in my own unique first “Taste of Spring”.