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This morning, I helped play tour guide to a couple of international visitors who are in town. As eco-activists in their own country who are very much concerned with landfills, land use rights, and ocean ecology, they wanted to check out one of the East Bay construction dumping grounds that is currently a contested site between the local parks and recreation bureaus, public artists, and homeless squatters.

Dogs are part of the landscape here as well, though this is one of the parks on the Bows’ list of parks we don’t go to anymore, because Bowdu started behaving very uneasily off leash, to the point where he was refusing to follow along even with high value food bribes. Consequently, it’s been over a year and a half since we’d been through. I wondered if Bowdu would still be freaky about it.

The answer was yes. After a quick poop off leash, Bowdu was ready to boycott entry again, so I had to reattach him and only then was he willing to follow along. Bowpi, however, enjoyed off leash privileges since she was behaving.

This site changes all the time. Today, I was closer to understanding Bowdu’s unease. The homeless squats had proliferated, while much of the art and color had been depleted. Even the anarchist library had disappeared; after I got home, I found out that it had been vandalized and burned down a little over a month ago. In its place was fresh garbage, not the construction debris that has always been there, and sprawling encampments. At least a couple very territorial dogs charged and gave us all a scare.

Bowdu’s nervousness is completely justified. Something here feels off kilter in a way I fail to describe with words, yet Bowdu clearly knows. I don’t expect to come back anytime soon, unless at the behest of another round of visitors.