I had not anticipated dog park culture being a thing. See, when a new dog shows up, every member of the pre-existing dog gang will immediately swarm to sniff, investigate and meet the new member. It turns out owners of the dogs do the exact same thing with new owners.
"Hi, hey, hi, hello! Are you new? You smell new! Do you love this park we love this park! I love you. Hello!"
My very first day at the park, I was bombarded by a team of dog owners who wanted to meet and evaluate me. Dog Park People are perfectly nice, but there's just something immediately personal about them that makes me uneasy. They decide that, by virtue of the fact that you have a dog and brought it to a park, you're already part of the same special fraternity. They're instantly familiar, and they want to know everything about your dog and tell you everything about their dogs. They want to ask lots of questions, which is terrible, because questions are scary.
Why Awkward People Hate It
These all sound very innocent, but for an awkward guy, few things are as intimidating as being interrogated on all sides by a bunch of grinning strangers who are already at a comfort level that you're not OK with. I came to a dog park to play dog-cops and robbers with my dog, not to get super familiar with a bunch of people. People are weird.
Also, as soon as you enter a new place where there's clearly an established culture, like a dog park, you know right off the bat that you run the risk of doing something that breaks the code of this new social order. I don't even know if there is a code, but I assume there's one, and I assume that I'll find some humiliating way to break it.
"I'm sorry that bad man tricked you into thinking he threw a ball when he really didn't. He won't be allowed back here, I promise."
All I can do is take solace in the fact that everything's fine, because Jackson's just as socially awkward as I am. He's also only there to hang out with me. Dogs will approach him and say "Bark" and he'll just be like "Oh, uh, yes, bark, and so forth, I'm- We're on the same page, there. Did you need something?" and it's clear that he doesn't know what to do with his paws.