My partner, Ira Perlman, and I are retirees, and since 2013, we have enjoyed a relaxing life in a condominium in Coram. It seemed only natural to us to want to adopt a dog as a companion. We had the time to add a layer to our lives and enjoy the love a dog can bring into a household.
After an unsuccessful search for a compatible rescue dog near us in Suffolk County, we drove to the North Shore Animal League in Port Washington. We found the perfect dog.
Lucy, a fluffy salt-and-pepper mixed breed, perhaps with some terrier, was in a big cage. When we saw each other, she jumped and wagged her tail. She was friendly and affectionate, and we bonded immediately.
Since that day in 2014 — aside from a little problem with her barking at any animal or bird she sees through the window or at dogs on TV — she has been a wonderful pet. Lucy is gentle with my grandchildren and their friends and rolls over to invite belly rubs. She is happy to follow us around, put her paws on our laps and lick our faces.
Because we have no space outside for Lucy to run around for exercise and freedom, we began to take her to the Boyle Road dog park in Selden. Off a main road, it’s a large, fenced-in area of dirt and trees.
In a half-dozen of our visits there, Lucy loved to run and play with the other dogs, and we loved watching her. We usually went during the week when it wasn’t too crowded. Of course, we saw instances of fighting among the animals, but most owners quickly corraled their pets — although some were protective and aggressive, like a parent sticking up for a child.
Winter 2018 was harsh and spring seemed slow in coming. Then on a dry and temperate Saturday in May, we took Lucy to the park. It was crowded. At least 25 dogs of all sizes, shapes and temperaments ran around.
As soon as I released Lucy, she ran up to other dogs and their owners, looking to be petted. A bunch of other dogs sniffed at our dog. I overheard a woman say to a friend about Lucy, “She has no boundaries.”
The remark surprised me because I thought we were seeing normal dog behavior.
Then, as a man was petting Lucy, his dog, bigger than our dog’s 50 pounds, started attacking and biting Lucy on the back.
“Hey, your dog just nipped me,” the man said.
I was shocked. Not my baby! But other owners yelled that she was nipping at their dogs, too.
When she ran over to another man, he said that Lucy bit him. “Get the [expletive] out of the dog park!” he yelled.
It was quite surreal to Ira and me. We had never had this problem before, and we had never been so aggressively chastised.
We walked away with our heads low, although I did yell out sarcastically, “And your dogs never bite!”
I felt the angry stares of many people as we led Lucy on her leash to the parking lot.
Lucy had been to the park before with no problems, but on this day, she didn’t behave as usual. She did nip, although she herself came home with bite marks on her back and head from other dogs.
There are dog park rules, and Lucy broke them. Just as our perfect children do act out, our perfect pets can do things we do not expect.
Our expectation to take Lucy back to the scene of the crime is nil, but we love her just the same.
Reader Susan Gold lives in Coram.