Central Park Sled Dog Statue

The Big Dogs of Central Park

Laurie Tenner Dunne


The big dogs running free in the morning in Central Park are gone – visual silence, a void in the view. They chased each other, squirrels, a ball, blowing leaves. Their owners stood watching in small groups chatting, but never taking their eyes off their own dog.

The owners wear relaxed, expensive workout clothes and leisurewear. Chinos, sweatpants already worn or soon to be worn to the gym or for the personal trainer at home. Jeans? Not many. There’s the occasional Carhartt canvas farmer’s or hunter’s jacket tossed on for the country gentleman effect. When it’s wet, I see the Wellies – fancy English foul weather boots;

otherwise its slip-on Moccasin-type loafers and good sneakers.  The dog owners have an “I just rolled off a really expensive mattress” look, styled bed head, gently tussled, mildly groomed. The women’s 

hair is perfect, but their belted coats and a pair of Uggs hide the bare feet and house clothes beneath. The dogs are Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Standard Poodles and hounds: big apartments, big dogs.  

I could pick out the people who live near the park and the ones who live on the park. The ones who live on the park have a certain obvious casualness though they’re not at ease. There’s an uptightness, an on-guard-ness, a mixture of smug pride and fear. Fear of what?  I don’t know. Maybe kidnappers, paparazzi, or snipers. Maybe just plain old paranoia or guilt.

But the dogs would do anyone proud. Ebulliently, joyfully, wildly reveling and celebrating their freedom with abandon, yet only too happy to return to obedience and be tethered again. I watch them from a large window on the park, with a pair of binoculars, high over Camelot, Hollywood in New York, an awed but disbelieving interloper.  

The dogs are gone now for nearly nine months. They’re in the Hamptons, the Berkshires, the Catskills, the Poconos, Connecticut, Vermont, Florida, somewhere, not here. I know that when I see them racing again, bounding, chasing, fetching, their tails in motion again, it will be time to hug again, to breathe again without gags, to be gratefully free, simply and enormously free again.  

Laurie Tenner Dunne is an interior designer, artist, and writer living in Manhattan. She is a fourth-generation New Yorker currently writing a memoir.