I didn't want to accept it at first, but after today's excursion to the dog park, making it the fourth excursion since I've gotten Ava, I have no choice but to admit that she's socially awkward around other dogs. In all honesty, I was expecting a little social awkwardness when I first got her. My sister never took her out in public a lot when she owned her, so I knew she was bound to be a little anxious around other members of her own kind. I witnessed this firsthand the first weekend I had her. I met my friend AA and her little Dotson, Rammy, at the dog park, and Ava's behavior was akin to that weird kid in kindergarten who never played with the other kids and instead preferred to sit in the corner and eat dried glue off the carpet. Rammy would try to engage in play; Ava would whimper and run off to a far area of the park where she was perfectly content to sniff the ground. Multiple times during the visit, while Rammy and the other dogs would be frolicking together, my friend would ask, "Where's Ava?" and we would see her standing off by herself, staring into space. It was disheartening, but I was confident that the more I took her out, the more she would get used to other dogs, eventually out-growing her social awkwardness.
Last week, I thought we had made a breakthrough, as she actually played with another little dog. It was only for a short time, as the little dog's owners had to leave, but there was actually playtime occurring. Not only that, but she wasn't as terrified of the bigger dogs like she used to be. Sure, she was still like, "WTF is going on?" when they would come up, but instead of trying to hide behind my legs, she would at least stay still while they sniffed her butt and reciprocate the process. I never thought I would be so excited to see my dog willingly sniff another dog's ass. I was encouraged. The next time we went to the dog park, I was sure she would be cured and engage with the others like a real dog.
Eh, not so much. I wouldn't say she's regressing, but I also don't think she'll make any more progress. During today's visit, she explored the park, but wouldn't engage with the other dogs other than to sniff butts and call it a day. I have to think that maybe she just isn't a dog park kind of girl, but there's another part of me that refuses to give up, like a father who doesn't want to accept that his son would rather write emo poetry than play sports. So I will continue to listen to the part of me that's mired in denial and continue to take her to the dog park in the hopes that one day she'll meet at least one dog that she'll voluntarily play with. I'll love her no matter what her quirks are, but I can't yet accept the fact that I'm the owner of the dog equivalent of "that kid" in kindergarten.
Photographic evidence of Ava's social awkwardness: watching the other dogs and owners play while standing as far away as humanly possible.