I usually take my daughter’s dog, Brock, for a walk while she is at work. We generally go down to the “rail-to-trail” for our jaunts. It’s smooth, flat, away from traffic, and full of great smells for a puppy to enjoy. Brock loves it, and could spend the whole day there, socializing with other dogs and finding new things to sniff. I have arthritis in my back and knees, and can’t go as far in one stretch as a young energetic dog. So, sometimes I sit and rest a minute on the bench at the edge of Palm Park.
I’ve always enjoyed the park. I spent time there as a child, I took my own kids there, and then my grandsons. I still like watching a grandfather and grandson trying to get a kite into the air, or children playing together in the play area. I always have. When you go to the park with a child or grandchild in tow, everyone knows you are okay and you can have pleasant conversations while the little ones play. Each person is an extra set of eyes, and is likely to caution a child who is doing something dangerous, whether the child is their own or someone else’s.
It’s different now. I am an object of suspicion. I am a strange adult looking at other peoples’ children in the park. If a child sees Brock, who is a cute little dog, and comes running up to pet him, alarm bells seem to go off. I’m the evil stranger with a puppy trying to engage innocent children in conversation to unimaginable ends. I understand their caution, but it’s still heartbreaking.