dog parks, dogs, Florida, places

Hilltop Dog Park (Temple Terrace, FL)

Address: 9420 Harney Rd, Tampa, FL 33637

Hilltop Dog Park is the one I visit the most often. It’s in Temple Terrace, and I usually just call it Temple Terrace Dog Park. There are separate large and small dog areas. Sometimes people who have both a large and small dog end up bringing their large dog into the small dog area, but it’s always a super friendly large dog and no one really cares. I’ve been to this dog park dozens of times and never seen a dog fight in the small dog area, so I feel really comfortable here.

Is it weird that I feel like my personality should make me a “large dog person,” but I have a small dog and have always had a small dog, so I guess I cannot deny being a “small dog person?” I mean, there is a definite sort of stereotype or branding, if you will, that is associated with dog size. Large dog owners take road trips across the country in their Jeeps or whatever and stop spontaneously in nature areas to play Frisbee with their large dog and when they’re not out traveling and having adventures they go running with their large dog on weekdays when they get off work whereas small dog owners just like sit and eat chocolate and take their small dog with them to the salon in a big purse and no one else can pet the small dog otherwise it will growl because it was never properly socialized.

At least that’s what I think people are thinking when they ask, “What kind of dog do you have?” and then after I answer say, “Oh, so it’s a small dog,” with disappointment in their voice, or say, “I want a dog too, but I’m going to get a big dog.” It’s like, yeah, okay, at what maturity level are you if you are making yourself feel superior to me because of a dog you don’t even own yet!

Hilltop Dog Park Temple Terrace 2

Sometimes birds of prey fly over the dog park and on more than one occasion I’ve had other dog owners come over to me and suggest I stand near my dog or even pick him up so he doesn’t get snatched up by a bird. I don’t think the birds are actually scoping him out, but now I go stand near him whenever they’re overhead just so no one will come tell me to.

Hilltop Dog Park Temple Terrace 3

Everyone at this dog park is super friendly and there are many people who remember Walnut’s name. People often stand around chatting. I usually sit on a far-off bench and read a book. That’s my preference, which is why I do it, but I also feel a little rude. Sometimes I have I-wish-I-were-an-extrovert moments at this dog park. The main reason I go there is to exercise my dog and relax, and for me, making small talk with people I don’t know is not at all relaxing, whereas sitting in the sun and reading a book is extremely relaxing. But this dog part does seem to be one of the few truly public spaces I’ve seen where strangers spontaneously interact with each other. Maybe going forward I will try to involve myself in conversation for at least 5-10 minutes before cloistering myself off to read.


New publication alert: “My Body Gossip Column”

“I love my body for how it looks, though women aren’t supposed to say that. I’m not ashamed of my vanity, however. It took years of conscious effort to develop, and requires daily awareness to maintain. Being vain became easier once I viewed it as rebellion against a society that has monetary interest in my self-loathing. You want me to feel ugly and fat and smelly so I will buy your products? Nice try, I’m gorgeous.”

I have a new publication out this month in Proximity magazine (quoted above)! I am pretty excited because Proximity is a publication I admire, not only as a writer, but as an editor. Their “series on race, gender, intersectionality, and literary responsibility” is fantastic. It is the epitome of transparency, honesty, and self-reflection. If you have an interest in lit mags, check it out. Also, check out the issue my piece is in–the theme is inheritance.

I wrote this essay two years ago, in a class called “Writing the Body” taught by Ira Sukrungruang. You might recall my flash piece “The Tooth” also came out of an assignment in that class. Now that I’m graduating, I hope to go through all of my past assignments and notebooks and see what other writing I can revise and send out. I know not all writing needs to be published, but it still makes me happy to see assignments turn into publications.

After this essay was accepted, I reread it for the first time in quite a while, which felt odd. The tone I took in the essay and the way in which I would write about my body now are so different I wondered, is this essay true? I mean, it’s definitely not a lie, and parts of it still apply now, but I don’t wear lipstick very often anymore, and although I am fine with how I look, I don’t feel defiant about it and wouldn’t call myself vain. Plus, my leg and armpit hair is grown out for the first time in my whole adult life, so if I wrote a “Body Gossip Column” now, probably half of it would be dedicated to that. The experience provided a reminder that creative nonfiction (and possibly all nonfiction) is more fluid than we like to think, and very dependent on time as context.

This feels like an important publication for me, partially because it is highly personal and also because it is the first publication I shared on Facebook (feel free to friend me–I created the account to use as a writer). I hadn’t warned any family members about this publication, so I wondered if there would be backlash. My family is rather conservative and in this essay I drop an f-bomb in the first section, then mention both “boobs” and “orgasm” later. So far, the only family member who has contacted me about the publication is my mom, to say that she thinks it is well-written. :)