Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Frolic in the Park
Children come racing downhill on wooden sleds of all varieties then the youngsters drag the sleds by a rope back up to the crest of the snow covered hill. Over and over this winter ritual is repeated while Erin watches everything unfold from a not too distance location; jubilant rides and unexpected tumbles are all viewed with a sense of wonderment. Lying in the densely packed snow she's unaffected by nature's effect on her beautiful flowing coat which is now matted and is every bit soaked as the youngster's hands through their mittens. Given permission she sure-footedly climbs the slope to join the sledders while awkwardly I attempt to follow her upward route. Reaching the launch point she's engaged in a round of socialization with the children who are awaiting their turn to glide downhill, huddled around they stroke her head and offer "Gute Hund" a phrase that was often lavished upon her in Germany. Erin loved everything this winter wonderland offered; canine shenanigans, rolling in loose powder, or chasing a hare that ventured out for a peek around....the smile remained affixed.
This wide open expanse in the heart of Mannheim is a popular destination year round due to its many attractions and this includes those of us who enjoy spending time with their dogs in an outdoor setting. Conveniently located a mere ten minutes drive from our apartment Luisenpark was visited several times a week regardless of the weather conditions thus Erin was one happy girl. The outer perimeter is paved with a wide avenue for those wishing to walk, jog, or rollerblade around the massive park while the scenic Neckar River lies adjacent to the northern boundary line. An abundance of trees and shrubs line these perimeters while the middle had huge plots of tree-free territory; perfect for a pack of dogs to play chase, fetch balls, and just hang out with each other. Often lurking amid the greenery were hares and squirrels both of which loved to taunt Erin thus she enjoyed pursuing them until they fled away like cowards :) With her head on a swivel and eyes peering intently, she broke into a gallop at any sign of movement meanwhile I watched her closely as she neared my boundary for safety; rarely did she cross that line but admittedly she veered into the path of a jogger or two.
Warm weather brought out visitors to the park in droves; they came to picnic, play soccer, enjoy a book or appreciate nature's beauty and who could blame them but these interlopers forced us to abandon our usual area for other locales. Wandering the footpaths while scanning the foliage for prey to stalk, Erin takes time to greet those who show the slightest interest in her, the rapidly moving tail is a sign that human interaction is always welcome. Folks assume we're from Germany so they ramble on in their native tongue; looking directly into Erin's eyes they speak German to her and she pretends to understand as I do all so often. Kiosks hawking food are a doggie magnet and bratwursts or currywursts with fries never fail to satisfy our craving; though it's doubtful the vendors had enough sausages to please my girl's voracious appetite. Strolling onward we discover nooks and crannies that are suitable for dogs to roam off-leash so she is given freedom to explore as desired, returning to my side she joins me on a metallic bench deep in the shadows of the park. Often it seemed as if we are all alone in this city center oasis, so close to the masses but isolated by a wall of trees.
Impromptu walks along the river occasionally took place as weather conditions improved and several dogs with owners could be seen spread out across the wide bank; these strolls could continue for hours and well into the evening hours. Erin enjoyed spending time with her European cohorts, most dogs were well-behaved and roamed freely while staying relatively close to their human counterparts. Water fowl scattered as the pack ventured near the waters edge, birds provided little interest to my fur friend but not to offend she rushed down the uneven embankment with the others; looking back she glowed with pride. These river strolls were loads of fun and they provided us an opportunity to bond with our park friends but all good things must end and the pack dissipated as darkness engulfed everything in its path. Returning to the park, the scene was one of eerie silence except for the clanging bells of passing trams, the beehive buzz of activity was gone and 100 plus acres now belonged to Erin and myself. We were alone but not truly alone as we always had each other and we wouldn't have it any other way...