Feeling Pensive in Phoenix Park, Dublin

fallow deer phoenix park dublin Ireland

There is a place just outside the centre of Dublin called Phoenix Park. It’s one of many parks in the city – Dublin is littered with green spaces – but Phoenix Park is special. It sprawls over 1,750 acres, encompassing enormous, sweeping lawns and wilder wooded areas. Dublin Zoo lies within its stone walls, as does the home of the president of Ireland and the home of the American Ambassador. I don’t visit it as often as I should, or even as often as I’d like, but whenever Lia comes for a visit I take her up there for a romp through the trees.

You can let yourself get lost in the park if you stray from the main road that cuts straight through its centre. I prefer to do just that, disappearing down narrow dusty paths carved into the ground by the hooves of the park’s resident herd of deer. You can cut through thickets of trees that have been growing for hundreds of years, only to come upon a hidden clearing, or a twinkling pond or an unexpectedly beautiful view.

landscape view phoenix park dublin Ireland

You can imagine how excited Lia gets to have that large a playground. She grabs a nice big piece of broken branch and disappears into the long grass, tail waving like a flag, delighted with herself. Her simple, focused joy is contagious. Dogs don’t waste their time with the future or the past, they exist completely in the present. If she is happy, then everything is a delight. Sometimes she just sits and sniffs the air, her eyes half closed in perfect contentment. For her, there are few things more satisfying than snapping a particularly crunchy stick in two, or feeling her ears flap back in the wind. I love to watch her at her most cheerful; she picks her paws up into a trot and almost bounces along, head and tail held high, as proud as its possible for a black labrador to be.

proud dog with a big stick black labrador lia

She doesn’t waste time on doubt or second-guessing herself. With a confidence I wish I had, she goes for whatever she decides she wants with great enthusiasm; enthusiasm that I very often do not share. If she sees a pond, she jumps right in and goes for a swim, looking like nothing so much as an astonishingly large otter. If she finds something dead, she rolls in it with the glee of a small child smearing finger paint on the walls.

dog swimming phoenix park pond black labrador dublin ireland

When she turns at my inevitable wail of dismay, she cocks her head as if to say, ‘What? You better not make a big human deal out of this…‘ and I sigh, and roll my shoulders back, and look at the sky. I remind myself that although washing her is an ordeal, I can’t get mad when her eagerness for doing everything that she thinks must be done – stick crunching, breeze sniffing, pond swimming… even dead-thing rolling – makes me smile.

It’s difficult to stay stuck in your head when you have an animal nearby. When I’m low, it’s often thanks to the pulverising power of overthinking; I stress about past actions and future worries and I tie myself into knots, punishing myself for things that might not even have happened. I worry about things that might never come to pass, and lick wounds that should have long since healed. I can’t seem to keep both feet in the right here, right now. I feel dragged by a current of doubt and catastrophic thinking.

I think this is one of the reasons I am so crazy about animals. Spending time with them for me feels like the closest thing to meditation I can manage. In their company, I find myself able to stop and just enjoy things, without critically examining what and how and why. It’s possible to listen to the wind rush through the leaves above your head, and feel just as strong as the old oak trees around you. It’s possible to push against the long grass as you wade through it, and feel a deep relaxation straight down to your bones. It’s possible to sit, and feel the breeze on your skin, and just feel gratitude for being right here, right now.

Some things really are that simple.


  • bexoxo

    Aren’t pets just the best? Except when they roll in stinky things and chew personal belongings…? I’d like to have not just their worry-free demeanor, but also their ability to get out of any trouble just by making a single face. That would be nice…

    Nice to see you like button is back. All is well again. πŸ™‚

  • Eunice

    I totally get you about the dog thing. I can wander for hours with my two and I love to see them enjoying themselves while I have time to appreciate the beauty of the countryside around me πŸ™‚

  • Angela

    I’m not much of a pet person and was actually going to write about that today now that my dog-sitting stint is complete
    However I feel this, exactly this….. ” I find myself able to stop and just enjoy things, without critically examining what and how and why. It’s possible to listen to the wind rush through the leaves above your head, and feel just as strong as the old oak trees around you. ” when I run, running is my meditation πŸ™‚
    That park is a beaut!!

  • stolzyblog

    seems a lovely place. used to have a golden retriever once (pretty closely related to black labs) & I lived in an old farmhouse then with many acres and a pond… god did he love that pond! you could throw three sticks in separate locations and he would dutifully swim to collect them, carrying them through the water, fetch them back to me and practically jump out of his skin waiting for me to toss them back into the water. coolest thing was the first freezing in winter: he had no idea and so as usual he ran ahead of me taking his flying leap into the ‘water’ whereupon he slid something like 50 meters across the icy surface. πŸ™‚

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