New dog owners frequently comment that getting a dog has suddenly earned them introductions to people they’ve lived amongst for years without previously having had much contact. Even neighbors without dogs often pause to admire a new four-pawed family member ambling down the block with its people.
It does seem that many of us dog owners tend to gravitate towards one another, like members of a secret society. I think that’s especially true when our dogs are of the same breed. I’ll at least smile and nod at anyone with their dog, but whenever I see a person with a borzoi (like my dogs, Tatsu and Skylar), I’m compelled to overcome my shyness and strike up a conversation.
The internet amplifies this trend, providing dog owners more opportunities and more convenient ways to connect with one another. Phenomena such as Meetup.com and Facebook.com allow endless possibilities to grow one’s network of dog-loving acquaintances and friends, whether looking to join the fun at the next local Pug meet-up or check out news and pictures from a friend’s latest adventure with their dog. I love following updates from fellow borzoi enthusiasts around the globe, and feel a sort of kinship with them although it’s unlikely we’ll ever meet in person.
Lately, I’ve also begun to follow two local dog related Facebook pages: that of the Arlington Dog Owners Group (A-DOG) and Friends of Thorndike Dog Park. I’m often touched by the sense of community I get from these pages, and I’m very frequently impressed by the speed with which news that affects area dog owners is passed along through these resources. Certainly, there’s a fair amount of sharing cute dog photos, stories and links that takes place on these pages, but there is so much more to them than fluffy fun.
Just yesterday, a park user raised the alert about a bunch of broken glass she had collected from around the benches and tree at Thorndike Dog Park, sparing fellow park users the pain and expense of cut puppy dog paw pads.
In the aftermath of the microburst that came crashing down on East Arlington in July, dog owners kept one another posted about the state of Arlington’s dog park, sharing photos and updates on the damage, as well as the re-opening of the park.
Park policy is sometimes the topic of discussion, as it was with regards to dog toys and other items left at the park. Sometimes it’s news of dog-related events, including the upcoming MSPCA Walk for Animals which takes place in Boston on September 9th. On occasion, it’s even stories about lost or found dogs, or ones desperately needing a new home.
Although many of the posts are light and fun, others deal with weightier concerns like the issues surrounding Arlington’s relatively new off-leash privileges. With the introduction of legal off-leash hours and locations, including one fenced off-leash recreation area, there has been a lot of discussion around very important topics such as ways to spread a deeper understanding of canine social behavior and body language as well as proper dog-park etiquette.
Having such involved discussions in the midst of off-leash dog play isn’t always effective or safe, since people have to be attentive to canine interactions, ever ready to intervene and redirect as needed. Neither is it an effective way to include the multitude of park users in the conversation.
However, having these discussions in online forums makes it easier to include more park users and participating in this way also makes it easy to effectively share links to useful resources about important topics.
If you’re a dog owner or dog lover living in or around Arlington, MA, I’d encourage you to check out these two Facebook groups! Join both the Arlington Dog Owners Group and Friends of Thorndike Dog Park to keep up with what’s going on in this vibrant, fun and supportive community of local dog enthusiasts.