One of my favorite things to do is walk my dogs in the dog park. We have two dogs, a lab-mix about 70lbs and a vizsla, about 50 lbs. At first we had only the lab-mix, whom I dutifully walked everyday, until I became a full time priest at this little church. Then her best form of exercise became sitting in the back yard watching the birds and bunnies. About four years later we decided it was time to add to our household (as if two parents and two kids, two cats, 5 birds, and a frog, were not enough). So, we went looking for a puppy and came home one day with a 16 week old Vizsla. She, this new pup, now a dog, is a bundle of joy. If a dog can express "HAPPY" she oozes joyfulness. Walking her, because she is bred to hunt birds (which we do not do), she is prone to springing straight up in the air and spinning in circles. Now, this is a great skill when she is in the tall grasses of an open field, I can see her and she can see me, but it is a bit disconcerting walking down the sidewalk. For the first year of this pup's life with us I walked the two dogs for an hour a day six days a week. Once I was walking 120lbs of dog I realized something else was needed before I injured my shoulder and neck muscles. That's when we found "Dog Park!"
Dog park, which has an official name but is always called "dog park," are two words my dogs understand. That means I need to spell out the words whenever we are planning a trip, "Are you ready to go to D-0-g p-a-r-k?....Dog park is a wonderful place...it takes at least 40 minutes to walk the perimeter through a fenced area of fields, grasses, woods, and a small lake. Well actually I walk, the dogs run and leap and play. We arrive home muddy and smelling swampy, and tired; the dogs are actually worn out. (At least for a little while). We make a trip to dog park about 4 times a week, a true blessing in a city where off-lead walking is otherwise challenging.
But dog park is more than just a place for me to exercise my dogs and myself. Dog park is a place where I can walk and be with God. Dog park offers up nature in all its finest through all the seasons of the year; trees, water, birds and all living creatures, sky and sun and misty air. Dog park is where I go to ponder my sermons for Sunday. Dog park reminds me that my problems are not so big nor so demanding; there is life outside my head. Dog park moves into the realm of my heart. Even as I ponder Sunday sermons I do so with a sense of awe, the beauty of God's creation in this microcosm of a dog park. That, combined with watching my dogs run with sheer glee, complete abandon, total joy, makes life worth living on even the bluest of days.