Hey look, it’s a cow convention! I announce excitedly to my two canine companions who, of course, don’t need to be told who was filling the area where they usually go to pee in the park. They are already dragging me behind them in their excitement to do what with the cows I have no idea. One bull moos a greeting, and I wonder if it is Welcome! or Get out of my space! I am not taking any chances as I drag the dogs to another part of the park to do their business. Of course, they are now too excited to think about performing any bodily functions.
Lamo Chaur Community Playground is a scruffy little park directly in front of my apartment. It is comprised of three lots, intersected by two driveways which lead to office and residential buildings hidden behind the tall wall that defines the rear end of the park. We have to take our lives in our hands (and paws) in order to avoid being crushed under the steady stream of cars, motorcycles, buses and trucks that fill the street between us. We dodge out way to freedom at least five times a day since puppies need to pee many times a day when they are young and learning how to pee outside instead of indoors.
The park is truly multi-purpose. Small children climb on the exercise equipment at the end of the park closest to my house while adults and teenagers use them as they were intended, cows hold meetings in front of the pile of rocks that serves as an alter to rock gods and, on an especially glorious morning, tear up the ground with their hooves jumping and butting their heads in sheer delight. I have never seen cows acting like playful puppies; it looks a bit dangerous to be anywhere in the vicinity of such large animals while they romp.
Groups of young men play ping pong on a table made of a four inch sheet of concrete placed on two vertical slabs, placed upright to act as legs, with a row of broken bricks lined up to serve as the net, a lone man doing morning yoga, a woman on her cell phone, and me, escorting my dogs to do their morning duties alongside similar gifts from street dogs and other local pets. Most of us who live around the park bring our dogs there. Between the dog poo and the cow patties, one must walk carefully. Even so, it is not unusual to find me cleaning my boots with a toothbrush just to get every bit of gunk out of the soles before I venture back into manure mine field.
The park is also used by some to park their motorcycles by day, or cars by night. Sometimes young couples come to sit and whisper to one another while they sit on the two bamboo benches on two sides of the large bamboo sandbox with its thatched roof that leans precariously to one side to keep rain out off the sand. Other teens crouch over textbooks doing their homework. The occasional homeless person naps behind a mysterious mound that has steps climbing up one side going nowhere. I think the idea is to slide down the other side, but no one has used the hill for any purpose whatsoever except my puppies, who find it a grand place to stand and survey the entire expanse of the park, kings and queens of their domain.
The park designers obviously didn’t realize exactly that, like the rest of the park, the sandbox would have multiple users. One rainy day, having apparently realized that they could use the thatched room above the sand box to get out of the rain, two cows had climbed into the sandbox, sort of. One had curled up in half of it while the other, much larger one, stood with his forelegs in the box and his rear end outside of it. It was hysterical. By the time I got back with my camera, they were both standing, ready to smile for the camera for their one moment of fame. Two days later, a little boy was using the sandbox as it was intended and, weeks later, my three month old puppies thought it was a grand thing to jump in and out of, as well as chase one another in circles around its outer edges.
Teenage boys huddle playing games on their cell phones, and one man does his laundry and lays it out to dry on the grass. Unfortunately, he lays it out in the area where my dogs usually pee, so there is some confusion on their part on the mornings that he gets there before us, and sometimes we leave a few well-placed paw prints on a pillow case or two behind if I don’t pull them away fast enough.
Mothers and fathers bring small children to stroll about while older children play badminton without any net, and teens playing soccer with beaten up balls that have seen better days.
There are two ends of a swing set, painted in bright colors, but no cross-bar and no swings. There is a row of tires, embedded upright into the ground, their original blue and green paint jobs fading and cracking. Children jump from one to another. Two other large tires are stacked, providing something else to climb; they too show evidence of a previous green and blue glory.
Along the wall of a compound to which one enters through one of the dirt roads that traverse the park and define its read boundary, is a huge mural of various animals, and inscribed with All animals are created equal but some are more equal than others. The paint is cracked and falling off along the bottom edge but, even with fading, it is a glorious proclamation of imagination and evidence that someone in the park’s past spent a lot of time preparing it to be a joyful addition to the neighborhood.
Sometimes, when someone is having an event in one of the buildings behind the rear wall, the park is used as a parking lot and the dogs and I have to wend our way between various cars and motorcycles to find a patch of grass upon which we can do our business.
There are other evidences of a previous glory: rows of tree stumps alongside the two driveways that divide the park into three equal areas; I wonder why they cut them all down. There are remnants of previous metal posts for what purpose I cannot imagine, which, hidden in the grass, lie in wait to trip the unsuspecting pedestrian. A small cement bowl, painted blue and white, with a picture of a cow to indicate its intended users, sits by the side of one driveway.
Of course, people dispose of their trash in the park regularly. From time to time, someone comes, rakes it all up, plastic, metal, and paper alike, sets fire to it and a slow smouldering fire churns out a nasty smelling gray smoke for hours. No wonder the city is so polluted.
One thing that the puppies have taught me about trash is that, contrary to my experience of it, it provides an endless sources of possible toys. The hood of a red plastic car, long since forgotten, makes for a great toy to carry around like a flag of victory, bits of paper can be chewed and eaten, unless I get there first, food boxes can be licked clean and then carried around to taunt and lead one’s siblings on a merry chase around the sandbox or the mysterious hill with steps. Socks are great for playing tug-of-war, and we even took one pair home so we could wash and re-use it for days. In the eyes of a puppy, a pile of trash is pure magic.
This park was a sanctuary for the first two pups whom I rescued and, now, as I, the pied piper lead a puppy parade of four new youngsters along its length I am aware that I shall miss this small oasis of contradictions nestled in the middle of a world of cement.