Marley Mu, during her last summer. Photo by Vaschelle Andre
Free Dogs and the Albany Bulb Waterfront Park
©2011 by Alice Walker
— A Dog’s Purpose, a novel for humans by W. Bruce Cameron is an amazing book. I just listened to it on audio and laughed and smiled and cried right through it. The narrator, George K. Wilson, is so good that by the end of the story you think of him as a dog, and a marvelous one at that. In fact, you love him as Bailey the dog, so much, and feel so intimate with Bailey’s sometimes painful journey, that the sobbing is wonderful. It’s wise, this book, and is sure to open the hearts of all who read or listen to it. I recommend A Dog’s Purpose to those who wish to make the Albany Waterfront Park in Albany, California a place where dogs must be on leash. Bailey, the dog of the story, who is reincarnated four or five times, has much to teach us about a dog’s love of liberty.
The Albany Bulb, as the park is also called, used to be in danger of becoming a shopping mall. Maybe this was just rumor, since this has not, in fact, happened. Perhaps the idea of not letting dogs run free there is also a rumor. I hope so.
For all thirteen years of her life, my black lab, Marley Mu, and I headed for the waterfront whenever we needed to walk. She trotted alongside me for endless miles over the years, free of attachment to me, except by her affection. This was a glorious time for us both: for her, meeting other free dogs, circling and sniffing, or dashing up and down the banks of grass and flower covered rubble; for me, relishing the peace that comes from being in a community that cares, and thinks seriously about, the happiness of dogs.
I love the park just as it is: the rubble being overtaken by vegetation, the uneven walking surfaces, the sense that we can create beauty out of destruction and waste, and the arresting art, done anonymously, that makes this park unique in a world where few artists can bear to remain unknown. And I love the beauty of free dogs, running and playing, jumping in the ocean: Exploring, free for a time, their extended and beautiful Universe.