It all began weeks ago while I was waiting for my daughter to get out of her tumbling class. I was chatting with a mother I had just met about our families. She was new to the area, so I didn’t find it that odd when she suggested that we set up a play date sometime. My daughter, Anna, is very outgoing, which makes her a popular pick for play dates. I said that I thought Anna would enjoy a play date with her daughter, and she said, “Daughter? I wasn’t talking about our kids. I’m talking about a play date for our dogs!”
And that’s how my dog Sandy and I found ourselves anxiously pacing the shoreline of our town beach, a popular meeting spot for dogs during the off-season, waiting for our new friends to arrive. I glanced at my watch. Will they show? Will Ernie and Sandy hit it off? And what was Ernie’s owner’s name again? At last, I saw two figures approach the entrance to the beach—one woman and one very large shepherd mix that I guessed must be Ernie. I had barely raised my arm in the air to signal to them, when Sandy made a beeline to the new guests (did I mention that my dog is very outgoing, too?).
After 30 seconds of the obligatory butt-sniff, the two dogs took off together toward the water, barking for joy as they frolicked in the waves. They quickly discovered that they had quite a lot in common. They both had a lot of energy and enjoyed the thrill of chasing Ernie’s KONG Zinger. They spent a glorious time playing “catch-me-if-you-can” with Sandy’s Ruffian toy (they had rules, too—the water was the “no tag” zone). They both loved to wrestle, and by the time the play date was over they were both covered head-to-tail in sand. Later on at home Sandy lay listless in a sunspot on the porch, barely moving the rest of the day except to take frequent trips to the water bowl. Exhaustion is the universal sign of a great play date, no matter what species.
It seems that Sandy’s and Ernie’s experience is becoming increasingly common. Just as parents today organize play dates for their children to keep them busy and happy, pet owners arrange play dates for their dogs. And, also like people, dogs have their social circles. Sandy is very excited when she sees her good friend, Arthur, and it was through Arthur that she met his girlfriend, Lola. We have friends we’ve made because our children play together, as well as the friends we’ve made because our dogs play together. The phone rings with requests for play dates for Anna, and the phone rings for Sandy, too. “Friday afternoon? Oh, sorry, she’s not available. She has a play date with her Husky friend, Jazz. Let me check her schedule for the following week.” It won’t be long before we’re syncing our dog’s schedules to our iPhones.
As for Sandy and Ernie? I am quite confident that his owner will be calling me again soon to arrange another play date. Now what was her name?