She is a firework. A bundle of wild abandon. An attitude that embodies happiness and freedom.
That’s our youngest pup, Peppermint Patty, our graceful baby beast. I have seen her walk along the edge of our couch with a ballerina’s balance and jump a flight of steps like a basketball player.
She is nothing like her big boxer sister, Charli Brown. Where Charli is sophisticated sass and prancing — even her run takes the form of a show pony — Pep is a pure explosion of energy. Love and fun and crazy, all at once.
So when the off-leash Waggin’ Trail Park opened in North Kansas City this week, I couldn’t wait to see her in action. She’s been at doggy day care. She has played with a few neighborhood dogs. But she has never been to a dog park.
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And here we’re talking about over 4 acres of grass and amusement, with dozens upon dozens of dogs. The gated park is divided into one section for the big pooches and another for the littles. It’s not just a big, grassy yard. There are tunnels and rope jumps and all kinds of fun things.
We weren’t sure how she would respond to the stimulation. She is a boxer, a natural wrestler. Not every dog likes that kind of thing. So initially, we kept her on leash. But when we let her off, something magical happened: She behaved.
Her first move was to run toward Charli Brown. At age 9, Charli is just not that into making friends anymore. Instead, she ran circles around the park on her own, occasionally stealing cuddles from unsuspecting strangers before taking off. And she was snappy at the fancy water fountain. In a dog park first for our family, I put her on time out.
But Pep? Watching her at the park was like watching a professional speed dater: She ran on up to dog after dog after dog, trying to meet everyone and play. She eventually wore herself out and lay next to her sister, tongue rolled out like a carpet.
Looking at them, I think of of my Aunt Gail, a lifelong pet activist. There were always at least four shelter dogs in her Waynesville, N.C., home when I was a teen. She recently passed, but as I stood in the park, surrounded by happy pups, I’m reminded of her.
She taught me the importance of giving dogs a chance. She said pooches weren’t much different from people. We all are changed by our life experiences and we all can be saved with a little patience, love and faith.
So as I was watching my 9-year-old grump and my 2-year-old wild child, I could hear her say to me, “Sometimes they will listen. Sometimes they won’t. But they will love you all of the time.”
Woof to that, Aunt Gail. Woof to that.
Waggin’ Trail Park
The off-leash dog park at 432 E 32nd Ave. in North Kansas City is open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day.
Find more than 100 opening-day photos at Mingle.KansasCity.com.