Newtown Dream Dog Park is located towards the front entrance of Newtown Park, about a long jacuzzi’s drive from downtown Atlanta. It is a fenced, one-acre area featuring artificial turf, sprinklers, various bridges, tunnels and hoops, plus water fountains for people and pets. On any given morning, there are tens of canine crusaders traipsing around the grounds in search of a proper smelling anal gland.
The park was built in 2015 when some Atlanta native spun around three times before entering the Beneful Wagworld Dream Dog Park Contest with a $500,000 award. Since then, most of the neighborhood’s felines have existed in a state of forehead-slapping envy.
Newtown actually consists of two dog parks, one for dogs and the other for what appear to be large rodents, who call themselves dogs, but clearly couldn’t hold up in a three round fight. The small dog park is sort of like the Kids table at Thanksgiving dinners, where everyone looks over and smiles but no one really wants to be there. Most small dog owners collect social security and have names like Harriet or Edgar. Let’s just say there’s not a lot of texting going on in there.
It’s a bit of an injustice that the small dog park is closer to the parking lot such that all big dogs must pass the small dogs on their way to better things, and, with the lifted legs and bared fangs, you can almost sense the mockery going on. When Chihuahua’s become envious, their upper lips quiver. There also will come a moment in every large dog’s life when they graduate from the small dog park to the big dog park and there will be guilt and an attempt at humility, akin to a Triple-A pitcher getting called up to the big show. Or, maybe dog’s just don’t really give a shit. Point being, if you’re one of life’s little dogs, the whole world knows you suck.
Once you clank through the double gates to the big dog park, you’ll set your leash aside many other shredded hemp and drool-stained leashes, and free your dog out into Beneful’s beautiful bailiwick. Immediately, several four-legged friends will seize upon the new playground member. Some will sniff, others will paw, and eventually one will take off like a bat out of hell (for no apparent reason) and the rest of the pack will give chase until the lead dog stops and everyone else stops and looks around like “what the hell did we do that for?” Over time, the animals separate into groups of threes or fours or a random coupling with some romantically suggestive rolling. There is an uncomfortable amount of sexual activity here, the preferred position, fittingly, dog style, although there’s a German Shepard doing some things with a French Poodle that borders on felonious.
Wandering the grounds offers insight into the canine lifestyle. On every bench, rock, bridge and pretty much anything supra-terra, myriad pools of spit, slobber and drool provide a slimy varnish. There are torn tennis balls in various states of decomposition and hairstyles (the dogs’), which run from East Harlem to Jamaica, with a few of the smaller pups evoking something Reichstag-ish. Stolen leashes and pilfered water bottles are part of the milieu.
Moving across the park is a lot like traversing an Afghanistanian minefield, with IED shit piles lurking at every step, and if you happen to avoid all of the piles, there’s a strange sense of accomplishment. Of course, it’s a fleeting feeling as you’ll have to cross again and the chances of surviving the day without something ghastly sticking to your shoes are near nil. There are a lot of happy flies here.
As for exercise, the dogs roll and splay and you see back ends sliding out like an Indy-car coming off the high-bank. Post-run breathing patterns range from hoarse and wheezy to phone stalker-ish. Eventually, one pup gets pissed off and then there are snarls and growls primal enough to make Vin Diesel sound comparatively Soprano. Some aggressive owners shout sharp commands to “Get the fuck off him,” and more anxious ones attempt to grasp their pet’s collar like a blind man searching for a dropped cane. A few will scream bloody murder and enter the melee with little regard for flailing fangs. In a nod to city planning’s foresight, there is a fire station directly across the street from Newtown. Sirens sound often.
It is not a myth that many dogs resemble their owners, and vice-versa.
Jowelled-old men sport bulldog companions, while a former NBA-player cuts through the gates with his two Great Danes. There are pretty blond women with golden retrievers and small, badly-permed, elderly ladies toting Schnauzers and toy Poodles. If you were a gambler, you’d be confident the Pitbull owners have gym memberships. Every so often, there’s a mismatch – Jowelled-old men sport bulldog companions, while a former NBA-player cuts through the gates with his two Great Danes. There are pretty blond women with golden retrievers and small, badly-permed, elderly ladies toting Schnauzers and toy Poodles. If you were a gambler, you’d be confident the Pitbull owners have gym memberships. Every so often, there’s a mismatch — a old woman with a German Shepard or a Hell’s Angel with a Chihuahua and the whole park knows there’s gotta be one hell of a backstory. Conversations pop up around the park like a schizophrenic frenzy. For example:
“Is that your yellow lab?”
“Yes, and I’m guessing by your facial expression that the humpee is yours?”
“Yea.” (accompanied by a long sigh indicating either frustration or envy)
“Do you want me to get him off, er…take him off your dog?” “It’s ok. Just let them do whatever it is they need to do.” “You’re going to make a great parent.”
“That your lab?”
“Did you teach him to steal wallets?”
“No, I think it comes with the breed.”
“You know, retriever.”
“Is the lab yours? etc.
The point is, Newtown resembles a speed dating meet-up, where half the park population walks around sniffing ass and the other half prods each other with sharp tongues.
It must be ignorance which encourages adult women to bring their toddler children to the dog park. Aside from the constant fingers-dipped-in-dog-shit-and-then-tastes-it, the petri-dish of diseases, the sexual proclivities of amped-up adolescent pups who see small children the way priests see them, and the ever-present threat of life-ending fang-to-throat issues, the place is pretty much a derby of canine collisions. In any given hour, there are ten to fifteen hound wind sprints, which threaten toddler spectators’ survival. In less than a week, one kid was rabbit punched through a fence, two kids were trampled rodeo-style, and another flipped skyward into a near flawless triple-with-a-half-twist when a Rottweiler put the kibosh on a quick-turning Dalmation. My therapist says I’ll be over it soon.
There’s also the dog names and nothing is off-limits. Just this morning, I met Yoda (seriously), Nova, Alouicious (sp), Madame Matilda P. Asuncion, and a Great Dane mischievously monikered Minnie. One kleptomaniacal puppy steals wallets, leashes, and various food items. He responds to the name Robber, which says a lot about the owner. There’s also a French Bulldog who’s yanking so hard on his leash that his aging owner has to grasp a bench to stay upright. With the dog’s choked voice and bulging eyes, Marty Feldman comes to mind.
Over time, ubiquitous fang marks make one uncomfortable.
If you’ve ever witnessed dog play, it’s a well-choreographed parade of writhing gestures that owners hope will result in a desperately-desired dognap. Like most relationships, it begins with a handshake, or in the case of these palmless creatures, the anal-sniff. Apparently, there’s a recognition or an attraction, or something in a dog’s butt crack which shouts let’s play and then all hell breaks loose. Dog play resembles a vampire attack. There are sharp fangs driven into exposed necks and even your most intellectually aware folks tilt their skulls and wonder whether they should be doing something to stop the apparent carnage. Fortunately, the ripping and gouging rarely result in anything other than an ADD moment when both dogs pause and one walks away to pursue a hurled tennis ball. Once in a while, these playtime moments grow ugly when an Alpha male enters the fray and battles for supremacy. The corresponding growl and bark draw full-park attention and most owners mouth the same “oh shit” phrase. Imagine spotting Jack the Ripper at the fence line and you’ll get close.
Eventually, Newtown closes. Marty Feldman and one of the Great Danes exit together in what looks like a Casablanca tribute. A few folks meet at the gate to rip foreign objects from their dogs’ mouths and return them to each other. There’s a parting. Seconds later, panting hounds pull their owners to the cars. The sun sets. The moon rises. And Newtown is just an empty lawn…..preparing for tomorrow’s shit show.