Socially awkward. Social anxiety. Introvert. All of these descriptions refer my dog, Comet.
Going to the dog park, Dexter (a whitish Retriever/Lab/pittie mix) strains with all his might against the lead. “C’mon, dad! Hurry!”, he is obviously saying. Comet (a Shepherd/Greyhound/mutt) my rescue dog, eyeballs a trio of snappy-welcoming Australian Shepherds behind the dog-run inner gate, with some alarm.
Dexter is off and about at high speed, bounding between the Aussies, terriers, a couple of German Shepherd -mixes, and a young Rottie – having the time of his life. I kept Comet on a lead for several minutes. He wags his tail a little nervously, drool starting at the corner of his lip. I make a few apologies for him about his social anxiety. His being a rescue and all. Everyone is welcoming. But you can tell they are more relaxed with familiar dog-people and then warm up, to the new guy. Some fellow dog-people interact more easily with mutts bounding around.
I let Comet off the lead. Wagging his tail hesitantly as a trio of the bigger dogs sniff him and each other, my “old man” makes an obvious about-face and heads to the fence line in the direction of the gate. I know a few humans like this. Introverts. Being socially outgoing is exhausting. Some give in after a while and retreat. I put him on a lead and walked back to my conversation. Dexter was running energized by dogs half his age. And I am letting him run.
For fifteen or twenty minutes, while Dexter ran out his energy, Comet stayed next to me. I might return tomorrow, but the park gets busier on weekends. More dogs. More parents. More small children. The prospect of more dogs and dog-people, to Dexter, will be energizing. But Comet might instead prefer the company of our familiar pals hiking at Mission Trails. He likes to walk with a couple of humans, who like himself, are introverts.
And now? It is nap time.