The Dog Park Ritual as a Place of Belonging

Dog Park Ritual and Place of Belonging

כשהאדמה של הפארק
הייתה מכוסה בבוץ
דווקא לשם הלכתי לנקות את הראש

Though the ground was covered in mud,
This is where I cleared the mud from my head.

Meir Park. “Gan Meir” is its Hebrew name. Located in the center of Tel Aviv, it’s small compared to Park Hayarkon in the northern part of the city – but its central location makes Gan Meir a hub of activity, especially during the weekends and on Shabbat. Tel Aviv’s LGBT community has a center here. It’s also the annual starting point of Tel Aviv’s annual Gay Pride Parade. My favorite part of the parade is always the rainbow-colored version of the Israeli flag. The rest is just really crowded and loud, with not enough totally crazy-looking characters to justify being outside in 100 degree heat for hours on end. I love the gays – just not parades. But those rainbow-Israeli flags inspire me to become more parade-tolerant.

Back to the park. . . It’s not the best cared-for park, compared to parks in NY and other cities. It doesn’t even have that much grass, and kind of looks really crappy when you first see it. But you have to remember it’s a park in the Middle East. It’s technically in the desert. It’s not supposed to have grass. It does have a large lily-pad covered pond with a cute little spurt of a fountain in the center. And lots of benches. I think the benches are by far the highlight of Gan Meir.

There’s a fenced-in dog park inside, but it’s even crappier than the rest of the park. It’s all sand and is totally disgusting, always full of big dogs that only want to play with each other and has only 2 benches to sit on, neither of which are in the sun. Dogs are technically not supposed to be let out of this part unless they’re on a leash. But in typical Israeli fashion…people do what they want.

Once my dog learned of this possibility, she understandably lost all interest in the fenced-in dog park.

Our routine consisted of spending about 30 seconds inside the dog park, sort of just to humor me. Then she’d wait for me to let her out and into the main park, where she’d let loose. Here she could freely tear through the large oval-shaped sort-of-grassy section, doing figure-8’s without stopping. Other owners would play fetch with their dogs, but Betsy never understood that game. She just wanted to run by herself.

Here I didn’t have to explain where I was from, or what I was doing in Israel, or if I speak Hebrew. I remembered what it was like before I had a dog, when I’d wander around feeling like a pedofile. But once I had my own dog, I had a golden ticket to go as I please without having to make light conversation for fear of being discovered. I belonged there, because I had Betsy, so no one questioned my presence.

This all sounds like I adopted her in order to gain access to a sort of crappy-sounding dog park. But I assure you this is not the case. I adopted her one day when I passed by Gan Meir and saw her with an animal rescue organization, as part of their weekly showcase of dogs in need of homes. After just 1 week of having her home with me, we developed a trust in one another that allowed me to set her loose without fear of her running away. I knew Betsy would always come back to me: I was her home and she was mine.

4 thoughts on “The Dog Park Ritual as a Place of Belonging

  1. Love everything about this except the “pedofile” mention…. don’t get it in the context of this otherwise warm and nicely rendered piece.

  2. Pingback: This Feels Pointless Sometimes | The Ex-Expat

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