Dogs are people, too

I am going to make a quantum leap here, so brace yourself.

How about comparing physical education class dodgeball games (the ones featuring an all-out assault with a red rubber playground ball), with our Chicago fan-friendly dog parks?

Permission to approach the bench to explain.

I taught physical education for a number of years in suburban Glenview and once told the social worker at the school, and anyone else in shouting distance, you can learn more about kids in 20 minutes of observing a game of good old dodgeball, than you can in hours of any psychological evaluation.

All the personalities show through. The shy guy, the wallflower, the aggressor, the troublemaker, the team player, the smart kid, the emotional ones, and the middle of the road kid just trying to fit in. They were all in full vision in this minimally-supervised dodgeball activity.

Now, making the big jump to Chicago dog parks, I find it fascinating to watch the dogs at play in these enclosed areas. Similar to the aforementioned dodgeball games, you can observe all the different personalities here in full canine display.

There are the shy and somewhat afraid dogs who hang by their owner, not comfortable engaging, at least right away. There are, of course, the rambunctious aggressor dogs who run around and seem to be chasing any and every other dog.

There is the natural leader—the dog strutting with easy confidence, playing with the others, but not forcing it, and the other dogs naturally following his or her untaught allure.

There is the standard-issue trouble making dog who steals toys, barks incessantly, and teases and bullies some of the quieter dogs. Oh ya, we know the type.

There are the focused, intellectual, well-behaved dogs who play with their owners, following all instructions and chasing said objects only when told to do so, seemingly oblivious to the mass confusion and barking pandemonium going on all around them.

Then there are the puppy loners, sadly. They stay distant, away from the other dogs—comfortable watching from afar and showing no interest in joining the fray.

Finally, there is my favorite to observe: the little, tiny dog that doesn’t realize his or her size and will bark, chase and otherwise try to intimidate the huge dogs—who often are more meek and mild mannered by nature. This “David fires on Goliath” dog park scenario gets me every time.

Yes, just like the kids in our dear old gymnasium dodgeball games, the message is clear: dogs are people too.

Jon Cohn is a New Eastside resident. Email ideas for Jon to

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