It’s play time!
Miro, a 2-year-old Australian Shepherd/hound mix who has a dash of blue in one eye, can’t wait for his pals to arrive at the new dog run.
He keeps looking up at his human: “Where are they? Are they here yet? Can I have a treat — or two or three — until they get here? Please, please, please?”
Before many treat-less dog seconds pass, Bandit, a 2-year-old Siberian Husky with big blue eyes, barges in with his human in tow.
Straining against his leash, he’s like a bull in a China shop – he wants to run, run, run and have lots of fun.
He’s followed by Bruce, a 1-and-a-half-year-old coffee-colored dog whose pedigree is that he’s a non-pedigree, what his human calls a mutt.
Technically, Bruce is a retriever mix, but judging by his exuberant Jack Russell-style jumping, it’s quite possible that he may have some terrier relatives.
Raffi, a mellow 6-year-old Golden Retriever with a smile and swishing tall, completes the Saturday-morning canine quartet.
These four have been meeting each other since the spring, when the dog run at Triborough Bridge Playground C, on Hoyt Avenue South between 23rd and 24th Streets, finally opened after significant delays.
The concrete run, which is under the bridge overpass, is enclosed, prison-like, by a 6-foot-high black chain-link fence and is divided into spaces for large and small breeds.
The noise of the cars on Hoyt and the vehicles overhead fail to drown out the barks and bow-wows that amplify and echo through the run’s overhead arches.
Unlike its puppy patrons, the run doesn’t have a designated name.
It’s shaped like a dog bone, a design that was designed to impress humans, not the pups who play in it.
The run, which covers a half acre, cost $1 million, which none of the dogs in this story wanted to be quoted about, at least not for publication.
They do, however, have decided opinions about the bright-blue fire hydrants and the drinking fountains.
Their most common comment: They are convenient.
Before the day’s play commences, sniffs are exchanged.
Then balls are rolled, and the pack races around the run like thoroughbreds at Preakness.
The dogs pair off. They wrestle. They play tag.
They get into friendly dog fights. (Bandit had to have a couple of time-outs, which didn’t seem to bother him.)
They scale the concrete embankments, they jump on and off the blue park benches where humans are supposed to sit, and they run around in circles as the cars on Hoyt Avenue South circle them.
While the pack is playing, the humans are otherwise engaged.
They sip coffee, check smartphones and chat, mostly about their fur babies.
It’s unclear whether they even know the first names of their dog-run friends.
Here, they are mere props for their pups. Who they are and what they do are unimportant. Even if I told you, you wouldn’t remember.
But the dogs, ah, you’ll never forget their wagging tails and innocent eyes.
Penny Lane, the latest newcomer, is, fittingly, named after the Beatles song. She’s a King Charles Spaniel, the breed of British royalty since the 16th century.
At 6, she’s one of the older pups in the place.
She made her grand entrance with Rue, a 1-and-a-half-year-old Vizsla mix who looks a lot like Bruce.
Rocco, a 4-year-old black Labrador/boxer mix, decides to spend some quality time at the water bowl.
Like several of the others, he’s already been to Astoria Park, so he’s here to socialize rather than exercise.
Xena, a little black dog named after TV’s warrior princess, is the next to join the pack.
“We recently started watching the series again, and I have to admit that it was a pretty silly show,” her human says somewhat sheepishly.
She’s 4, and she’s a mix — of something, something, something. Oh, it doesn’t matter. She’s really, really, really cute.
There’s a stir as teeny-tiny Pearl, a black Pomeranian who looks like a powder puff, enters the run.
She spends her time vacuuming the ground for crumbs, a habit that has led to more than one trip to the ER.
After an hour or so, the dogs, tongues hanging to the ground, round up their humans.
The gate opens. One dog goes out. One dog comes in.
And the next party begins.
Astoria Characters Day is Sept. 13, 2020. Sponsored by Bareburger, it’s a free, public event.
Nancy A. Ruhling may be reached at NRuhling@gmail.com, @nancyruhling, nruhling on Instagram, nancyruhling.com, astoriacharacters.com.
Copyright 2019 by Nancy A. Ruhling