With the advent (finally) of typical winter weather, taking the dog to the dog park has become more challenging. Going after work is no longer an option, because it is already dark and miserable by the time I get home. Standing in the freezing rain is not that attractive, but I have done so in the past and will doubtless do so again, such is my desire to do right by my little furry companion. But all in all packing up the dog and driving him off for recreation and socialization had become less of a pleasure and more of a chore.

We (the dog and I, that is) had been going fairly exclusively to Potso dog park, since the hillside at Gabriel park had become a muddy slip’n’slide. Potso is a good park. It is a fine park. In terms of the dogs and owners that I’ve met there, it has become my favorite.

Nevertheless, I was intrigued to see what the “winter” dog park at Gabriel was like. With the coming of the rains, the “summer” dog park is closed, and reseeded, in hopes of undoing some of the damage done by countless doggy claws. The “winter” dog park is on the opposite side of the trees, near some community gardens. It is roughly triangle-shaped, on a hillside, and sand from top to bottom.

Winter dog park

I’ve taken Gus several times now, and the transformation that he undergoes inside the park is amazing. Once through the gate, he begins to run. Whereas he used to jog amiably about until he could convince some like-minded shepherd to give chase, now he starts out in top gear, running back and forth like a dog possessed.

Granted, he’s cooped up a bit more now than he used to be, but I don’t think that’s the reason for it. Rather, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the sand that makes the difference. I think that running in wet sand is just more comfortable than running on other surfaces, and he’s taking advantage of it. Whatever the reason, it’s a delight to see him racing about at top speed, tongue lolling out to one side. He seems to be running purely for the joy of it, and when he’s in his top gear, he’s nearly uncatchable.

After a visit to the dog park these days, we are guaranteed a dog that will lay down and sleep for the rest of the afternoon, such is his state of exhaustion. We are also guaranteed wet, sandy footprints in the minivan, the garage, the kitchen, and all over the house. It’s not that I don’t rub him down afterwards, it’s that it simply doesn’t matter whether I rub him down or not.

Well, it’s a fairly small price to pray for a tired and contended dog.