Jack the [Desert] Dog

Not exactly a “dog park” dog.

Wickenburg just put in a dog park. If you’re not familiar with the concept, it’s basically a fenced-in area where people can let their dogs run around. It’s especially nice for folks who live in apartments or trailers or don’t have fenced-in yards. Wickenburg’s dog park isn’t anything special — at least not yet. I hope they plant some trees and do some cross-fencing to spruce it up a bit. Right now, it’s just a big area adjacent to the airport that’s surrounded by chain link fence. There are two leaf-less trees, two cheap park benches, and a bunch of molded plastic patio chairs.

But it’s better than nothing and I’m glad whoever put it in did so.

Throughout the day, folks gather there with their dogs, letting them run around together. The dogs bark, the owners shout. The dogs play, the owners socialize. It’s a relatively pleasant scene. Since the dog park is right on the other side of the fence from my Wickenburg hangar, I see its dynamics each time I’m at the airport.

My dog, however, will never set foot inside the dog park. You see, Jack’s a desert dog. He — like my neighbors’ dogs — roams freely on our property on the outskirts of town. On a nice day, we open the back door and let him out. He chases rabbits and squirrels and, when it gets a bit warmer, lizards. We have 2-1/2 acres of property, but he occasionally wanders off to visit with my neighbors, too. Their dog comes to see us once in a while, so it all evens out.

Jack goes lots of places with us. When I head out to the airport or store in town, he rides in the back of my Jeep or pickup truck. He likes to bark when he’s in the back of the truck, as if to yell out “Look at me!” It’s actually pretty annoying and I have to break him of the habit again soon. (Stopping the truck suddenly and throwing a cup of water on him usually does the trick.) When he rides in the Jeep, he likes to sit in my seat while I’m in the store. I don’t have the back windows on the Jeep and he’s fallen out twice. Once was when I was parked at the supermarket. An announcement over the loud speaker said, “Will the owner of a black and white dog please come to the courtesy counter.” I went out to the parking lot to find him circling the Jeep excitedly. He was very glad to see me. A woman standing nearby said, “Is this your dog and Jeep? He’s been trying to get into it. I was going to let him in, but I wasn’t sure if it was his.” I opened the door and he jumped in. We all had a good laugh. He hasn’t fallen out since.

Jack the DogJack also goes hiking with us out in the desert. He’s well behaved on the trail and never bothers other hikers. He’s a bit of a nuisance when we go out to take photos, as we did the other day. He always seems to get into the shot. But now that he’s older — he turned nine this year — he’s starting to slow down and spends a lot more time just relaxing in the scant shade of a tree while we bend over wildflowers and lie prone to shoot up at cacti. It could also be his thick winter coat — which I’ll soon be vacuuming up off my floors and carpets — that keeps him too hot in the springtime to run around.

In answer to a commonly asked question, yes, Jack has flown in the helicopter. He’s been flying with me three times now. I think he considers the helicopter just another vehicle. The last time we flew together, he was very well behaved alone in the back seat.

Jack’s a good dog — the best I’ve had so far. Although he tends to get excited easily and seems to live to be petted, he’s smart and listens — unless, of course, he’s chasing a rabbit. We may spoil him by making him a part of our lives, but we don’t pamper him and don’t allow him to misbehave, especially when there are other people around. In other words, we don’t allow him to give people a reason to complain about him. If more people disciplined and trained their dogs properly, we wouldn’t need so many “No Dogs” signs and leash laws.

And we probably wouldn’t need dog parks, either.

What do you think?