It has been roughly 53 years since I last set foot in Seton Park’s dog run. Well, 53 dog years anyway.
Although conversions and calculations are in dispute (apparently the one-human–year-for-every-seven-dog-years rule is no longer accurate), there was no denying the wistful nostalgia I felt as I returned to that section of the park.
Just over 10 years ago, I wrote a letter to the editor of The Riverdale Press stating my displeasure with the then-recently constructed dog run and the plans the Seton Park Dog Run Association had to improve it. No way could I have predicted a decade later I would find myself standing in that very dog run, surrounded by wet noses, wagging tales and eager paws — writing about it once again.
To be clear, I had and still have nothing against dogs. While I never had the pleasure of owning any pets, I’ve always enjoyed playing with dogs owned by my cousins and roommates. The problem that I had with that particular plan was how it gutted the wooded area I played in as a child.
Upon re-reading my original letter, I felt a small resurgence of the long-forgotten feelings of injustice that must driven me to take pen to paper in the first place. But that was quickly replaced by sheepishness and embarrassment, which had absolutely nothing to do with the current Press editor printing out and proudly displaying the letter on the door to his office for two days. No, the real reason for my discomfort was that I feared I might have been wrong.
Before I fully leapt to that conclusion, I decided to do a little investigating. I wanted to see if the claims I had made all those years ago were valid points or just the exaggerations of an upset 10-year-old.
Upon returning to the park — and to my dismay — I immediately began seeing signs of the latter. Between the two dog runs, the newer one had perhaps a dozen more dogs in it than the old one.
The ground that I once complained of dirt, dug-up roots and dangerous hazards, was covered in a soft layer of mulch.
I did, however, discover shortly afterward the mulch was only recently installed. And those extra dogs? That was thanks to a dog-walking company that happened to be using the park while I was visiting.
Overwhelmingly, the responses I got from dog owners indicated my premise as a 10-year-old was flawed. The different runs provided variety for the dogs and prevented overcrowding.
Above all, this was the best dog run around. Although it lacked some amenities like running water and dog escape-proof fences, the animals loved it. And there was a good community of people.
As a I walked away, covered in paw prints and small scratches, I couldn’t help but think about how — although I’m sure my intentions were pure — I had been selfish in writing that letter. Obviously, it would have been impossible for my 10-year-old self to predict how soon I would outgrow that area of the park, but I feel as though I should have been able to look past my own needs and see that constructing a new dog run would benefit the community so much more and for so much longer than leaving that land unused.
That might be a lot to ask of a kid so far removed from being a teenager, but I was pretty smart back then. I mean, after all, I did use the word “encroach.”
Looking back, I suppose I’m lucky my letter had as little influence as it did. I’m glad it wasn’t able to deter the plans, that the park is configured the way it is, and that the dogs and dog owners are happy. I’m happy, myself, with how I spent my years in Seton Park, and that sounds like a win for all of us.