For me, one of the fascinating things about Dog Park is that it is a microsociety that deals with many of the questions any emerging social grouping must answer. For example: What are the rules? (If you have to ask, . . . ) Who's in charge? (It's an anarchy!) Where can we find shelter and water? The answer to the last question is "At the water bucket."
Traditionally, the water bucket has been found under the metal awning that juts out from one of the state agency buildings that defines the border of Dog Park. The bucket lives there for the simple reason that there is an outside spigot and hose easily accessed by Dog Parkers. Our current bucket is courtesy of Erica, owner of Joey and Coco. The fading of her clever squirrel applique shows the wear and tear of many months of being filled up, dumped out, slobbered over, and peed on.
As in any society where resources are scarce, the bucket and the water with which we fill it have been a cause of friction between the dog walkers and the agency on whose land we walk. A few years ago, there was a security guard who hated us and our dogs. Whenever she saw a dog, she would throw up her hands, scream, and start running—exactly the behavior to attract the interest of the dogs. She often yelled at us and threatened to have us arrested. But she was smart enough to realize that the one thing we Parkers absolutely needed during the hot summer months was water. Whenever the guard was on duty, she would make sure that the water supply to the hose was turned off—from inside the building. Clever, my dear, but not clever enough. We Dog Parkers are like rats and New Yorkers. We don't give up prime real estate. So we did what every higher species does. We adapted. We emigrated.
First, we moved the location of the bucket. We set up a watering station under the pecan trees at the bottom of the trail from the north parking lot. And instead of a bucket, we had a crazy collection of plastic bowls and metal dishes. Water was still an issue. Some folks brought gallon jugs from home. Some donated pitchers and old milk jugs, which we would carry to a hose outside another building on the property that was not convenient or safe for the dogs to be. Of course, problems arose. The empty jugs got blown around by the wind and chewed and peed on by the dogs. Some people put their dogs' names on their jugs and would get bent out of shape if the jugs disappeared or were empty when they wanted to use them. When the landscaping guys mowed that area, they would throw out all the bowls and jugs, and we'd have to start over from scratch. It was a constant struggle. In the end, however, the security guard who gave us so much grief moved on to another job or to a mental health facility. The victors in this battle of wills, we literally reclaimed the high ground.
The buckets have changed over the years. We've had algae-encrusted plastic buckets, rusty bread pans, ceramic dog bowls, and cheap Tupperware knockoffs. Newbies at the Park have often wondered about the safety of using receptacles that looked like they were donated or left out by the state agency. They worried that the workers might have put poison or antifreeze in the containers. (Such a low opinion of our civic work force!) I think that the design Erica created for the current bucket makes even newbies realize that the container is clearly ours. As a result, I think that we take better care of it. And now that summer is definitely on its way, that's a very good thing.