When I get the opportunity, I like to take my dogs to a local dog park. I often go with a friend and his 2 dogs and we walk around and around the perimeter and talk shit and laugh at our dogs, who are quite the characters.

The dog park is an interesting place. You never know what the mix of humans and dogs will be and it causes me quite a lot of anxiety at times – it’s something I reflect on a lot.

I’ve always had big dogs. Ridgebacks, German Shepherds and Huskies.

Gidget is the smallest dog I’ve owned but the biggest personality.

She is a typical bull terrier derivative dog. Boisterous, in your face and unapologetic. If you are not prepared for her, she takes quite a bit of getting used to.

Jimmy, however, is a massive dog and is just a calm, man about town at the dog park. Friend to all humans and dogs,  and dismissive of trivialities like rude dogs and so forth.

He gets unlimited off leash time at the dog park, once I have sussed the place out.

Gidget? No. Mostly she gets to stay on leash with me and we do laps round the perimeter.

I have had more than one person suggest I’m cruel for not letting her off lead.

And I hate that I can’t. I leave her on lead mostly for her own sake.  I don’t want her to be ‘that dog.’ She generally means well and hasn’t harmed any dog but is demonstrative in her presence and she takes some humans and dogs aback.
I chatted with my friend about it on our last visit. Although Gidget was on leash, she got plenty of exercise, sniffing, weeing and pats in on that visit. Dogs could approach her and there was tail wagging and butt sniffing for everyone.

But by keeping on lead I kept her safe. She got all the social side of the dog park and very little risk.
So I don’t feel guilty about it at all. Jimmy has proven that he can mingle and be accepted in almost any situation. Gidget has not earned that privilege 100%.

Sometimes there is exactly the right mix of humans and dogs and Gidget will run herself stupid. But is far safer to keep her with me where she won’t be misunderstood.  Adn she would miss out far more if I left her at home.