Friday, July 9, 2010

Welcome to the Dog Park...or...Once again, I'm not a cool human.

So apparently, there's a completely foreign and unique culture at Dog Parks. When Lady was alive, we didn't bother going to the dog park very often. She was so incredibly submissive; she'd walk in, sniff a butt or two, and look back at me with bored eyes as if to say, "Uhm. Okay. I'm ready to go home now." It was the same at the Dog Beach. She just didn't care.

My other favorite childhood dog, Shadow, was way too smart to be lured anywhere than wherever it was that she wanted to be. That's a convoluted sentence, but suffice it to say, she was her own dog. We let her roam free most of them time - she *desperately* hated getting into cars, so we were never afraid of her getting abducted, and she was too loyal to run away. Any time we tried to lock her up, she'd find a way out of wherever it was. Shadow at a Dog Park would have been like putting James Bond in an undersea box with 25 locks. She'd just be out in 30 seconds.

Skipper - the mad scientist dog - would have gotten us kicked out of the dog park. Skipper was too smart for his own good - the crazy genius - he probably would have taken out some other dog's eye, just to see how it worked. He was, unfortunately, the Ted Kaczynski of dogs.

Taking an unwilling dog to a dog park park is like a parent taking a nerdy kid to football practice - only the parent gets any satisfaction. And the kid just grows up hating sports, and resenting aforementioned parent for "making" them participate. Ah childhood! Keeping therapists in business since 1875.

Anyway. I've had a lot of dogs, but I haven't had a lot of "dog park" exposure. I tried taking the pups on July 4th, but there were no other dogs. So I attempted to play fetch with them, while they succeeded in ignoring me and smelling every single square inch of the lawn - three times.

So we tried again today. Success! We hit the puppy jackpot! Eight other dogs to play with, as well as 4 smaller dogs in the lawn across the way to look and bark at! Bliss!  

There were only three dogs there at first - a purebred Husky named Yuki, a hound-mutt dog named Milo, and a dog that could have been Hermione's twin named Layla. Yuki, Milo, and Layla's owners were there, sitting on a bench together - one human per dog. I asked if it was okay if we could join them, and they said sure. I let Hagrid and Hermione off the leash - mass amounts of sniffing ensued. I asked the humans about their dogs, and received very basic answers. It was pretty clear from the get go that all three humans knew each other. Okay, fair enough. Three friends bring their dog to the dog park every Thursday at 5:00 p.m. Seems normal and fun and charming. I'm the outsider, I should shut up and let them enjoy their afternoon. The only question I get asked is:

"Is he a purebred?" This is in reference to Hagrid.
"Uhm, you know, we got him from the Golden Retriever Rescue of Southern California - they say that he's a purebred. I wonder if he has some shepherd or something, somewhere down the line. He has some atypical Golden markings, and his hair is a bit shorter than most Goldens."

The talking amongst themselves ensues.


And so I play with the dogs, throwing the tennis balls I brought with me. The Husky, Yuki, was a sweetheart - she was a tawny brown and white with crystal blue eyes. She liked me a lot. She did not like Hagrid. She made it clear that she was the Alpha, and no ass-sniffing from anyone was allowed, least of all him. Hagrid carefully slunk away to smell the other dogs. Milo, the hound-mutt, was a humper. In fact, I think that was the first thing he did upon meeting Hagrid, before I even clicked Hagrid's leash off. And Hagrid looked up at me, trapped, eyes pleading, "Uhm, Mom? Who is this freak?! HELP ME!!!"

Milo's owner was trying to be helpful, but proved mostly ineffectual. Her soft cries of, "Milo, stop," clearly inspired nothing but more humping on Milo's part. It continued for at least the next 35 minutes, off and on. Milo made Hagrid his bitch on multiple occasions. Hagrid was trying really hard to be patient, but he'd reach a breaking point and challenge Milo by jumping in the air, and trying to out-maneuver him, but this only excited Milo more. Poor Hagrid.

Milo only tried to hump Hermione two or three times, and each time, Hermione bitch-slapped Milo like Shiva.

Layla, the other yellow lab, seemed nice enough. She liked to chase the balls I was throwing, but much like my dogs, often had sudden, furious bouts of ADD, and wouldn't return the second half of the "fetch" deal. Which resulted in me throwing and walking, walking and throwing. Ah well. It gave me a task, and a reason not to be the awkward "new human" at the Park, trying to wheedle my way into a conversation I'm not remotely interested in.

Dogs are not the only ones with social hierarchy at the Dog Park.

Not long after I arrived, two brown boxers arrived with their humans in tow. Their humans, I think, were married. They clearly showed up every Thursday at around 5:00 p.m. too, because they greeted the bench club warmly and familiarly. The wife smiled warmly at me. Her mate said nothing. Upon seeing Milo humping Hagrid, the husband said, "Yeah, Milo! Get to it!" Then, upon realizing that Hagrid was a boy said, "Oh. Never mind, Milo. At least pick a dog of the opposite sex!" This resulted in lots of chortling from him. I secretly wanted Milo to go hump his leg.

Not less than 5 minutes later, an English Bulldog with a poorly cropped tail named Roxy showed up, with her human - a tall dude who looked like he just got off of work. Roxy was pretty cute, but apparently had some entitlement issues when it came to tennis balls. Her human kept saying, "Roxy, share." She wasn't supposed to be sharing with the other dogs, she was supposed to be sharing with me ... since I was only entertaining myself by throwing and walking, walking and throwing. I train easily, no?

Now, here's where the Dog Park gets interesting. Once Roxy and her Dude show up, her Dude goes and talks to the Dad of the Boxers, and they form their own pack in the middle of the yard, arms folded, head shaking and muttering. About what? I couldn't say. I was too busy fetching my own tennis balls. The women, on the other hand, congregated around the bench, talking familiarly about things I wasn't privy to.

Next to arrive at the Dog Park were two tiny white dogs - a Boxer puppy, and white something that should have "teacup" in the title. The huge pack of behemoth dogs flocked to these two like crazy. Again, I tried my tennis ball diversion tactic - but again, only I found it interesting. Then, to make the insanity worse, along comes an American Bulldog.

This wouldn't seem like something of note, except that American Bulldogs are apparently not the most purchased of puppies. Or, at least, not where this group of humans was concerned, because as soon as the dog was let to go play, the human males flocked around the Am.Bulldog's owner, another male, like he was the star quarterback on the HS football team. "Is that an American Bulldog?" "Wow, she's got great color." "You know, Boxers were bred from bulldogs and mastiffs," that was the Boxer Dad, obviously. Hump, Milo, hump!

And then it hit me - I'm not cool, because apparently my dogs aren't cool? There's nothing remarkable about a Golden Retriever and a Yellow Lab - kind, bumbling, sweet dogs that everyone sees everywhere. So lame. So humanly lame.

And just as I thought, "Okay, let's blow this popsicle stand...." another dog/human combo shows up. This dog - I can't even tell you what kind of dog this. It looks like a cross between a small wolf and a greyhound. A long, sleek, thin body - built for speed - with shaggy, jet black hair and pointy ears. Her human was another male, but he was young - probably in his late teens, early twenties. He stood on the opposite side of the park, earbuds in, ipod on. His black dog, running circles all over the Park with ridiculous speed ... and every. single. dog. running. behind. I kid you not. Most of the other dogs gave up after about 10 minutes ... but not Hagrid. Hagrid found a new girlfriend. They played tag for the next 20 minutes, until Hermione came and laid down next to me, panting furiously. We packed up my tennis balls and went home.

Cut to now. Hagrid is passed out, dead as a doornail on the floor. I returned from walking them about an hour ago, and instead of the frothing-at-the-mouth excitement they normally have when it's walk time, they were right by my side, sniffing occasionally, stopping every so often. I was dragging them by then end - and we only went around the corner.

So - it was a successful day, I think, despite the human cliques. They behaved like the good dogs they are - and besides some crazy bounding through mud puddles that resulted in two very sloshy baths (provided by yours truly), I was a proud mama.

I may have to go back next Thursday at 5:00 p.m., to see if the Dog Park Gang is there, and do some more anthropological research....

Let my "dog days of summer" begin!


Lira said...

hilarious! I once went to a dog park with my dog, and we were so scared he was going to eat another dog, we never took him again. Our dog, apparently, was a huge douchebag.
And I've gone to dog parks as a single human without a dog, just to be around them. The owners were unfriendly to me too. I might also be, a huge douchebag.

MildlySensational said...

I don't take my dog to dog parks anymore. The humans are very clique-y, and my dog is so mellow that other dogs aren't really interested. We end up walking laps around the park because we can't find anyone willing to talk/play. We both get bored, so we go home after half an hour. It's sad, because my dog would love to run, if anyone was willing to run with him.
I guess we're both totally uncool as well.

H said...

Ha! I enjoyed reading your detailed account of your experience at "Le Dog Park." (I may have to send this to my sister!)