As Ida, Stanley, and I round the bend, they spot him. With complete disregard for me, their so-called master, they sprint down the track toward the elderly gentleman strolling through the park. Their target is Jack who keeps his pockets stuffed with treats. He never, ever disappoints Ida and Stan. Both he and Annie, his basset hound, are senior citizens who are our regular walking companions. We walk about two miles every day, rain or shine, freezing or stifling. We have acquired quite an eclectic group of friends (hard core walkers, all), both canine and human, in the process. I can usually be counted on to provide some entertainment to onlookers depending on how many Planned Pethood fosters I am attempting to walk in addition to my own pack.
Jack and Annie are two of my favorite pals from the park. Jack is in his 80’s but is definitely young at heart and in spirit. He played for the champion Waite High Indian football team in 1947. They were so tough and confident that his coach challenged anyone in the entire nation to try to whip them. So, off they went on a train to El Paso, for a gridiron contest across the country and they backed their coach’s boast with a victory. That was just the beginning of Jack’s globetrotting. He has visited every single state and many countries including the exotic Tahiti.
My favorite Jack story deals with Annie’s lack of motivation. She does not share Jack’s enthusiasm for a full and brisk walk. She is more of an ambler and she loves a short cut. On one occasion, Jack’s wife received a phone call from the park. A walker concluded that Annie was either lost or abandoned because she did not see her owner in the immediate vicinity. After reading the super friendly Annie’s tag, she reached his wife who began to laugh. She told her to look up, and did she see Jack? She did indeed. She thanked the woman and assured her that Miss Bassett just had a mind of her own and her people were always near.
We always know when Joann is approaching the park. Her ancient chessie, Sidney, boisterously announces their arrival from the window of the car. Joann is one of those people who is always impeccably coiffed no matter the time of day or the weather. This is in stark contrast to myself with my mismatched clothing, no make up, and ripped up tennies. Sid cannot really hear or see very well anymore but he still loves his trips to the park. And, you have to give it to the guy, he will still give it the old college try and attempt to mount an unsuspecting dog on occasion. Joann’s granddaughter works at the dog warden’s office so she is especially enthusiastic when my fosters have been rescued from there. We have a gay old time discussing current events, restaurants, and of course, dogs as we walk.
My soulmate in rescue from the park is Denise who is a one woman dynamo. She walks Jack, a very senior and arthritic black lab who, like Ida, is a ball-aholic. He walks the entire park with one in his mouth (unless Ida seizes on the opportunity to steal it). Duke is an elderly and (like Annie) a pokey, always sniffing basset who is sometimes walked by Denise’s son, Casey. They have matching energies as they lag considerably behind. Ozzie is a supercharged jack russell who is ALL personality. Oz is a character with a capital ‘C’, all decked out in his camo coat. He was a stray who stole Denise and her family’s hearts. He does what I call “drive bys” where he will lull his companions into a sense of complacency, then he attacks his unsuspecting buddies with an attack from the rear. Finally, the newest addition is Lila, a feisty rottie puppy, who was rescued from some backyard breeders. And, in addition to saving animal lives, Denise is something of a local celebrity, appearing on the T.V. show “Cops” (as a cop, not a criminal).
Whew, Denise has been busy with her own personal dog rescue, right? We haven’t even mentioned the lives she has saved in the cat world. She had rescued four kitties from a variety of dire situations already when we met but number five would soon be on the way. She called to see if Planned Pethood could take him into the program. He was dumped at the park and some evil kids were throwing rocks at the little dude so she scooped him up and took him home. But by the time I received the o.k. to take the new guy in, it was too late. Denise and her family had bonded with him and he had found his forever home.
I cannot leave the park without mentioning Mark. He’s retired navy and has never had a dog before. He adopted a stunning 100 lb. weimareiner from the pound, named with originality, Buddy. He (Buddy not Mark) loves me. He bounds toward me because of my secret weapon, a baggie stuffed with treats. My lab Ida is crazy for Mark because most of the time he is packin’ a ball. Joann and like-minded walkers had to do a little subtle training with Mark in park etiquette. I know, TMI, but when that dog poops, it is substantial. We are hoping that he will be a confirmed environmentalist from now on. It does take the joy out of a day at the park when you or your kids step in a pile of poo.
I know you pretty much need a scorecard to keep track of all the people and dogs in this blog. When I meet new people at the park, inevitably I will be able to recall the dog’s name but not the person the next time we encounter them. So just to recap, here’s a shout out to my compadres from the park: Jack, Joann, Denise, and Mark (the humans) and to Annie, Sidney, Jack, Duke, Ozzie, Lila, and Buddy (the dogs). And thanks to Ida and Stanley and my Planned Pethood fosters for taking me to the park daily or my butt would be planted firmly on the couch.
By Judy Szewczak