Dog Parks: Jack London's Dogs
There was a work day in September at which an army of volunteers from Oakland's Rotary Club appeared to clear away debris that had piled up over the years, and give the Dog Parks a refresh. Their assistance was so gratefully received, as the Park continues to struggle, even with more city hires in 2022. Joaquin Miller is the City's largest park, half the size of Golden Gate Park, has been embattled, like the whole city has, with petty crimes such as vandalism and graffiti.
But the dogs don't know that. They have a dedicated and fenced off-leash dog area with 1.25 acres to socialize like dogs do: sniffing butts, herding, chasing balls, and fake-fighting. Need a shot of pure joy? Come and watch them play.
Watching the happy hounds frolic in this rare safe play space for citizen canines, I couldn't help but imagine what Jack London would think about those anthropocentric words I just used in the first clause of this sentence. His stories have dogs in raw interfaces with nature, struggling for their place in packs, wondering why humans are so cruel and stupid, rarely kind. London found the humanity in people, and his recently resurrected wife Charmian (at least in the literary sense; she was erased like so many literary wives and correspondents) wrote even more about different cultures and civilizations. But in his most famous novel, the Call of the Wild, a good dog was de-civilized.
I watched a beautiful red husky get his ya-yas out, loping around the arena like he owned the place. This good boy's ancestors were working dogs, team dogs, pulling dogs. Actually all of them in today's pack were bred to be herders, hunters, protectors. The diversity of dogs is always astonishing; a yappy rat on a string is just as much a dog as a noble wolfhound as big as a pony. But size matters in rough play; there's a big dog park and a little dog park in Joaquin Miller Park. The latter has a fun name: Gizmoland! (I suggest "Jackville" for the big dog park, in honor of Jack London's dog, who, weirdly, was also named Jack.) Oakland dog owners have made such a difference in the last decade to make our city a safe and happy place for dogs.