Is there anything that quite defines “joy” as seeing a dog romping across a grassy field, ears back, eyes wide, running and tumbling with other canines?
Didn’t think so.
Lately, Lori and I have been treated to this sight over and over again at the neighborhood school two blocks from our home. For the past several weeks, Charlotte and a growing number of four-legged friends have been running with abandon in that sweet spot between dinner and dusk.
Our little black beauty is especially joyous chasing — or being chased by — Coco and Penny, two similar-sized dogs with similar temperaments. The three of them greet each other like best friends and quickly launch into play, darting in and around us, and invariably winding up in a whirling ball of fur.
This wouldn’t normally strike anyone as remarkable — a few dogs running around a partially fenced-in athletic field. But if you knew Charlotte’s back story like we do, you’d appreciate how far she’s come in her socialization with other dogs and her trust of their humans.
Like Coco and Penny, little Charlotte is a terrier-mix and a rescue dog, with a past no one really knows. We adopted her in October 2014, as a scrawny 11-pound, 2-year-old mother who’d been picked up on the street with her puppy. She’s now five years old, tipping the scales at 16-plus pounds, and well adapted to our home. (Her puppy was adopted out to another home.)
Two years ago, though, she and I were attacked by a couple of unleashed big dogs at a dog park in another part of town. Charlotte suffered a bite wound near her tail and I escaped with scratches, a bloody lip and a torn jacket. Even after she mended, we were wary of situations where she might get targeted again by larger dogs.
That’s why it’s been such a pleasure to see Charlotte run free in the company of other animals she knows and likes, and to also let other adults pet her between romps on the grass.
It wasn’t always like this. Charlotte’s always been one to bark at strangers rather than approach them. But within this little circle of friends, she’s also becoming trusting of Penny’s owners, Arturo and Lindsey, and Coco’s human, also named George.
She also gets along very well with Yukai, a handsome Shiba Inu, and his owner, Laura, who carries around a small pouch of dog treats and jokingly refers to herself as “the doggie crack lady.”
On the most recent Sunday night, Charlotte was the first arrival at what I’ve come to think of as her own private playground. When Penny and Coco showed up, it was as if another party had begun. Another round of joy.