So here I am, at the Park, attending my regular Saturday and Sunday meeting. As always, it is on the hill, the one with the tall flagpole next to the band shell. Murray is here, eager to chase, and Lola is over there, sexy and cute as ever, flirting with Timmy as only a fifteen pound Havanese bitch can when playing with a miniature poodle of equal weight. They run, they roll, they suddenly stop and lie close. It is early in the morning; dogs are allowed off the leash in Central Park while the owners stand around and watch the action.
We are a varied lot, we dog owners. Julian is a lawyer for the City, fiercely liberal with strong views about politicians; Donna, a distinguished pain management doctor; Lisa, a well-respected psychologist; and there is the young man who seems to have inherited wealth (why couldn’t I get that job?) and lets us know where he will be jetting off to next; plus about thirty others, mostly regulars. We group according to which dog our dog plays with. Timmy, the miniature poodle who is at York Prep every morning, is fussy about whom he befriends. Their owners are mentioned above. We hang around observing and talking until the witching hour of 9:00 a.m. arrives, and then off we go back to our homes with our dogs.
This is quintessential New York. I very rarely have met any of these nice people in any other situation—never had coffee with them, never even seen them at another time on the street. We New Yorkers live in such a big city that we segment our actions and acquaintances by the activity of the moment. The people we meet at the gym are different (yet no less interesting) from the people we regularly meet at work and the people we meet with our dogs. If, for some reason, our lives intersect in a new way, we are slightly surprised. Jayme and I were waiting for a plane and met a dog owner from the Park. Not unlikely in the total scheme of things, and yet we mutually expressed our feelings about what an unusual coincidence it was.
The difference is with parents of students who went to school with our own children. Some of our closest friends we first met when our children were in the same class at their school. These are friendships that have lasted over thirty years. Yet, in actuality, we initially met far less frequently than my Saturday and Sunday meetings in the park with Timmy, but the bonds between us were completely different and far stronger. Our children are so precious, and the process of parenting of children of a certain age is so difficult, that we seek out kindred spirits going through the same experience. These were friendships that continued after the children left school and went to college and after college as they pushed forward in their lives.
To all my fellow dog owners, I wish you well. I like you. You seem like nice people. If you had a child at the same time we had children and in the same class, then the conversations might be less superficial, and we might even have seen each other as closer friends. But you don’t and we won’t. Just people on the hill…
Come here, Timmy! It’s nine o’clock! Home!
Ronald P. Stewart, Headmaster
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