#958: Chess Dogs

July 25th, 2018

Across from a chalet-style law firm with the old butcher’s shop name “Schmidt Metzgerei” still written above in font as close to German Gothic as nailed-up tiles can muster, next to a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist temple founded by Japanese-Americans returning after imprisonment in American concentration camps during WWII, there is a valley of chess tables with dogs on them.

The valley is a small recess in the pavement, a tree-ringed micropark marked with stone tables and stone chairs inlaid with chessboards. They’re meant for passersby, to aggregate a collection of charming old men who toddle to the neighborhood park to stretch minds and capture bishops. A statue of two children play in and are a water-spraying fountain among the black-and-white battlefields.

But there were no chessmen. Just a ton of dogs.

Big dogs, little dogs. Dogs on leash and a pair of doggie pals wandering leashless circling the fountain. Kids ran and scampered and neighbors chattered as, near to a one, every chess table was topped with dog.

I asked a man holding the leash of a large brown fluffball standing on queen’s rook 8 if this was a dog park or not. He pretended not to hear me, but a woman holding the leash of the dog one board over responded.

“Yes,” she called to me.

Cover blown, the man smirked sheepishly and responded to my initial question.

“Well, not sanctioned, but we do,” the man said as his companion, unnerved by the sudden pause in petting, attempted a Falkbeer Countergambit right on the table.

I left charmed by the odd little enclave of tables with dogs standing on them. Kids — both statue and otherwise — played in the fountain. Friendships were made among dog and man. Handshakes were extended. Butts were sniffed.

And the chess tables intended to bring together a community did, just with fewer rooks than intended.

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