Olivia and Griffin have some new friends. A few weeks ago, we were at the park and two little boys came over and asked if they could pet the dogs. Zeke is eight and his little brother Nate is four and three quarters and they live across from the park. They were a little nervous about my big slobbery dogs, but they were very interested as well. The next time I was at the park, they came over again and asked if they could play. They ran after Olivia and kicked the ball for her to chase and it was fun. As a youth development professional, I couldn't help wonder where their mom was and think it was probably a little risky that two little kids were playing alone in a park with a strange adult, but I was kind of enjoying the break from running after the ball with Olivia, so I put my professional opinions aside and let the kids play.
The next time I saw the kids, their mom came outside with them. She told me they had seen me outside for months and think the dogs are funny. If they've been watching me from the window, I'm sure they've seen me trip myself while chasing the ball, lecture the dogs when they don't listen, and generally be an insane dog person. Embarrassing. But she and I chatted and I told her I am a camp director, the dogs are camp dogs, and I think she must have decided I was safe.
So today, the boys were back and are getting more comfortable with the dogs. But today, instead of playing with Olivia, they played with Griffin. I have kept him on a leash every time they've come out to play because while he is super friendly, he doesn't know he is as strong as he is and I sometimes worry about his manners. As in, I'm pretty sure he will knock down a 4 year old so he can sit in his lap, not realizing said 4 year old is terrified (that didn't happen, but I could imagine it happening).
I'm not sure how the game started, but when I turned around, Griffin was chasing Zeke across the park. I started running after both of them because I was concerned that he was scared. But Zeke was smiling and so was Griffin (in that big, slobbery, puppy way). They didn't go very far when they both paused to sort of stare each other down, and then Zeke made a sound, took off running and Griffin chased after him. They did that over and over and over again for 40 minutes. I was shocked Griffin had that much energy. I tried to get a picture of Grif, because his ears were bouncing up and down and so were his jowls and he looked so happy galloping around. An 8 year old is just slightly faster than Griffin- not too fast that it isn't fun, but not too slow that Grif can catch him and jump on him. They were the perfect match.
I thought Nate was afraid of Griffin because he was standing back and looked a little hesitant, and then he hid behind a tree, saying, "he'll never find me here" but then he kept making sounds to get Griffin to look at him and he cheered on his big brother the whole time, even running alongside him a few times. He and Griffin collided once, which surprised both of them, but I held Griffin back before he could throw his whole body on top of the tiny child, smothering him with love (and terrifying him at the same time) and Nate giggled, so we were all fine.
It occurred to me that someone driving past the scene might be a little concerned as they watched a 60 pound dog chase down a tiny screaming child while a strange adult looked on laughing. But let me reiterate- I was carefully supervising both the dogs and the children, everyone was safe, enjoying themselves and happy. The dogs were well exercised, the kids had fun and I enjoyed myself as well. I don't think I would allow my small children to play with a random adult and two giant dogs unsupervised, but I'm not a parent, so what do I know. Also, I'm happy my dogs have some new friends, because they miss camp, the campers, the attention and I am too tired to chase them for 45 minutes at a time.