Photographer Captures Bittersweet Spirit of a Dog Who Has Been Living in a Park for 13 Years

Residents who live near the park say they've seen this dog around for more than a decade. John Hwang

Sometimes, a picture paints a thousand sighs.

No one really knows how a dog ended up living in a Los Angeles-area park for at least 13 years. But every time someone spots the dog with no name, there’s always a feeling that more could be done for him. Like finding him a real home.

And many have tried. From animal control officers to rescue groups whose efforts always end with the dog darting out of reach.

Dog standing on grass in park.
The only way this dog can ever be captured may be in photographs. John Hwang

In a sense, John Hwang may be the only person who has come close to capturing what he simply calls "The Dog in the Park." Or at least capturing the spirit of this solitary rover — which shines through in a set of photographs he took this week.

Moving into the neighborhood about five years ago, Hwang began taking his own dogs to the park — a sprawling, often empty space.

"That’s the first time I saw that dog," he tells MNN. "But he wouldn’t let me get anywhere near him. He would kind of run off."

Last year, Hwang moved even closer to the park. And gradually, he got to know the dog a little better.

"Now, I go to this park every morning," he explains. "So I see this dog every morning. There’s kind of his spot. I’ve seen how people leave bowls of food and water for him, and leftovers."

Dog standing in park.
Despite repeated efforts, not even animal control officers have been able to bring him in. John Hwang

Indeed, while no one can get near the dog, local residents have taken it upon themselves to look after him — a kind of community care that has spanned more than a decade.

"He’s kind of part of the park or neighborhood," Hwang says. "He’ll nonchalantly roam the park. He’ll walk by people. He doesn’t bother anybody or any other animals. He’s never barked."

And like everyone else who sees this dog, there’s an inexplicable fascination — maybe even admiration — for the life he leads.

"This dog is just very robust, resilient and smart," Hwang adds. "He lives a very free life. Like a hippie dog."

Get too close, and he’s gone.

Dog standing on grass in park.
Some dogs just follow a different path in life. John Hwang

Lately, a lot of well-meaning people have descended on the park. Hwang says there’s a renewed effort to capture him. Maybe they'll finally succeed, or maybe the Dog in the Park will fade into the greenery as he has before.

But not without reminding us that not every dog comes home to kibbles and bits and kisses from a fawning family. Some dogs, like humans, walk a different path.

And somehow, this dog has managed to find a kind of life — even if it isn’t everyone’s idea of a good kind of life.

"It’s this dog’s home."

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