The move to Berkeley was tumultuous, to say the least. On top of the stress of transferring to an iconic university, it turned out that I had found myself in an abysmal roommate situation — I mean, there was more drama in my first three days at the new apartment than I, a theater kid, had experienced in my entire life. Combined with the sadness of leaving my dog at home, I was truly an anxious mess.
Until I met Porter, and he took me to the dog park.
Porter is a Blue Picardy Spaniel who has never caught a squirrel but also has never given up on the prospect. His tail wags all the time, his ears are long and floppy and when he’s happy, he dances. Sometimes his barks sound like he’s going through puberty, and he loves having serious conversations about his toys. He cannot catch treats. He loves to cuddle. Overall, Porter is a very, very great boy.
About three weeks after the move I found Porter on the Wag! dog walker app. Something about him taking me to the Ohlone Dog Park, wearing a cone because he hurt his toe, caused me to fall into such a state of serendipitous delight that I could not wipe the smile off my face the rest of the day.
When I asked Porter’s family if I could be his regular walker, they agreed and everything started looking up.
At the dog park, there is really no space for worries. Once you step through the gates, you are overtaken by a cacophony of barks and the happiest tails. Being outside in the fresh air, surrounded by lots of dogs is (for me, anyway) a true, uncomplicated bliss.
At the dog park, any concerns over roommate troubles or mounting schoolwork must be left behind. Dogs don’t like it. They demand your full attention, and you can’t really give good belly rubs or play adequate fetch if you’re stressed about dishes or planning essays in your head.
Porter is a delight at the park. He’s an older, sensible, gentleman kind of a dog and has a very admirable routine: first doing his business in only the best spots, then making his rounds to all the people he knows have treats in their pockets, followed by a squirrel stare down before finally bounding off to play. Then he’ll hop onto the big middle stone bench to sit next to me, observing the goings-on of the park until he is satisfied and asks to go home.
I got to walk Porter every weekday morning before class and sometimes Friday afternoons. Several times my friends came with me, and they too would revel in the joys of the dog park, always leaving happier than they came.
On occasion, Porter played like he was a puppy again, getting into happy tussles over a frisbee or play wrestling with his buddies.
A cookies-and-cream-looking mutt that reminded me of my dog, Quincy, would venture to the park on occasion. She would always come to say hi, sensing that I felt some unfounded connection with her. And then I would miss Quincy terribly until Porter would come to show me the great stick he found.
Then there were the rare days that Porter and I had the whole park to ourselves, and those were my favorite.
He liked to flirt with the lady golden retrievers, and I always tried to be a good wing woman. When we first started dating, Joseph came along on the morning Porter walk. I guess Porter tried to be my wingman, too, because when he saw Joseph, his happy dance became exponentially happier. Porter has good intuition, and he was right to happy dance about Joseph.
Of all the most wonderful things about attending UC Berkeley –– the incredible friends I’ve made, the inspirational professors been fortunate enough to learn from, the Cheese Board soirees and the Funk Night shenanigans, the quiet moments in Doe Library, eating Cheez-Its on the roof at Loth, the life-changing lectures and the thrill of walking under Sather Gate –– the most consistent joys were always the mornings at the dog park with Porter.
I had to move home because of the pandemic. I thought I’d be more upset about it because I miss being on campus so much, and I miss Porter too. But I’m glad to have been granted more time with Quincy before I move again for graduate school in Paris.
What I learned from my mornings at the dog park with Porter is how easy it is to find serenity in the driven and tireless, “I’m going to change the world” UC Berkeley lifestyle. Porter quite literally stops to smell the flowers, a practice too often forgotten in the everyday hustle.
So if I had to give any piece of advice to my fellow Golden Bears, it would be to find your dog park, maybe even your Porter, and take full advantage of its joyous abundance.