Today at the dog park, I discovered that Joy does not play well with others. She’s not aggressive, mean, standoffish, or even shy. She’s downright terrified of other dogs. When we put her in the “small dog” pen, she was the largest of all the chihuahuas, terriers, and poodles, yet she darted in fear if one of them came too close. We tried to show her it was okay, playing with the other dogs and coaxing her to fetch the tennis ball. But as I watched her interact with the other dogs who were playfully wrestling and chasing each other, I felt like I was looking in on an awkward child trying to fit in at recess. Eventually, she worked up some nerve to follow the other dogs as they ran from one end of the fence to the other, but as soon as they noticed her, she backed off and walked away. The funny thing is, she melts in sheer happiness and trust when a complete stranger offers to pet her belly, basking in the interaction.
We decided to leave the dog park after watching of our little adolescent “nerd” make a few more attempts at making friends. We walked to the car, taking in the freshly cut green grass in the large park, the clear sky, and good weather. A few feet in front of us, a mother and her small daughter were enjoying the day as well on a spread out blanket. As the mother was preoccupied with folding up the stroller, the small child started towards us. She was probably less than a year old and could barely walk. She didn’t say a word either, but her eyes were deadlocked on Joy. She clomped one chubby foot in front of the other and held out one arm as if at any second, she would be able to touch the dog. I actually laughed out loud as I watched her, because she looked brainwashed and completely obsessed, almost magnetically drawn to the dog. Finally, her mother turned around and quickly stopped her daughter’s momentum as she nearly crashed into Joy. We all laughed as the mother asked if Joy was friendly. When I told her yes, the little girl began to pet her. Joy ate up the love and attention, like she always does from strangers, especially children. That’s when I decided that all nerds eventually come into their own. Joy gets along just fine. She just had to find her crowd.