On a recent hot day, I remembered the secret dog park on Capitol Hill.
I'd heard rumors for months that it was owned and run privately by a rich animal lover in her own vast backyard, available to anyone who shows up. No bad dogs allowed. Someone who'd been there told me it was "a dog paradise."
I pictured shady meadows, fragrant ponds, troughs full of chilled water being lapped up by Rin Tin Tin, Snoopy, and Bo Obama. I saw my dog doing the one thing city life seldom allows her to do: frolicking.
It was a warm day, and my apartment is un-air-conditioned, so I trundled my enormous German shepherd–Akita mix off to search for this canine Shangri-la. I knew rough coordinates, but I wasn't sure exactly where to go.
As we got closer, the houses started getting conspicuously larger and nicer. Residents dressed for tennis and yoga gathered on sidewalks in clusters looked at us—me with my mesh bag of tennis balls tied to a Chuckit like a hobo bindle, she with her eight-foot tongue hanging out of her mouth, longer than was polite. Their eyes all said the same thing: "What are you doing here?"
Who, us? We're looking for Dog Paradise!
And then we found it, just down the street and around the corner. A large, modern house surrounded by a long, tall fence. We cautiously traversed a narrow pavement walkway to a welcoming sign-in sheet on a clipboard, passed through an iron gate, and into... a backyard. A very large and conspicuously dog-free yard.
Signs cautioned us not to go into certain areas. We didn't. I threw a tennis ball. My dog chased it. After elaborate negotiation, I pried the slobbery wreckage from her jaws and threw it again. It was like every day of our lives.
Then the groundskeeper, a woman whose age I would estimate between 50 and 60 years old, holding a dripping hose, approached and sharply cautioned us not to go into the areas where the signs already cautioned us not to go. We agreed not to.
I asked if this was her house. She said no, she just worked there. I asked where all the dogs were. She said the yard had been closed for a few days but was open again now. She asked me where I live. Pioneer Square, I said.
"Oh, no no no no no," she said. "You have to leave. This is for residents of a two-to-three-block radius only."
I looked over at my dog, who was trying to get me to throw her a ball that was already in her mouth. I looked around at the big empty soccer field and felt that familiar feeling of not really wanting something until it has been denied me.
I did a quick mental calculation of how much money you'd have to earn to afford a house within a two-to-three-block radius of this one. I subtracted my own income from it. The total was barely affected.
I looked back at my dog.
Then I said something shitty.
"Is that so the neighborhood dogs don't have to rub shoulders with the common dogs?"
To her credit, the groundskeeper called me on it. "That's a shitty thing to say."
I couldn't deny that it had been. I wish its essential accuracy had given me license to say it, but indignation is seldom righteous. I take it back. It's your yard, lady, or your boss's yard. Have it.
I apologized for being petulant, and for trespassing, and then gathered up my dog and her now-thoroughly disgusting tennis ball and embarked on our exile from Dog Paradise.