I admit it. I have an idealist’s image of what it should be like to spend time with my dogs, a romantic notion of hitting the road with them in search of fun and adventure. More often than not my adventure usually turns into frustration and a tangle of leashes, yipping and yapping on their part, and shouts of “hold it, wait a minute, no, stop,” on mine. They are probably saying the same thing or more like “hurry, go, what’s taking so long, yes, go!”
In any case, I put up with the tangling and the hollering and loaded the pugs in the car today for a mini road trip. The sun was shining, but the air cool and I realized that in spite of the article I had to finish, our days of warm weather and carefree travels were numbered with fall around the corner and winter’s snow nipping at its heels. I decided on the dog park, a 20 mile drive, and was fortunate to arrive at a time of day when other owners were getting out of work and bringing their dogs to the park for some socializing. I say fortunate because my pugs had a glorious time sniffing, running and playing with a plethora of other toy dogs – a Chihuahua, a rescued Puerto Rican street dog, several white dogs whose owners characterized as Maltese, Poodle or Bichon, a baby beagle and the piece de resistance, a chug – Chihuahua/Pug mix. For the most part, the conversation amongst the owners was equally pleasant with discussions about Dog Chapel, Pug Socials and other dog-friendly events. “Here comes Sarah or Frankie,” I’d hear and quickly realize that the reference was to a dog not the person. If the approaching dog was not well known, we would play a guessing game about the breed, “a Jack Russell, no a Chihuahua,” we’d surmise.
Then the tone began to change. I do not go to the dog park often and I always scoff at the people that make fun of dog owners for anthropomorphizing their dogs, but suddenly I found myself confronted by a woman who fit every stereotype of smothering dog owner. “Look, here comes Daddy,” she said to her pup as her husband approached. “Are you awwright, precious,” she murmured. “Nobody’s going to hurt you,” she said, picking him up and no doubt terrorizing him herself with an onslaught of kisses. “Those big dogs aren't going to hurt you,” she glared at my 13.6 lb. petite little Waffles, who was easily three pounds lighter and significantly more fine-boned than her “baby.”
Poor thing, every time he did anything even remotely doggie, such as initiate a play bow or roll over on his back, she’d scoop him back up for a tight hug. She didn’t stay long. Still, I realize that she was probably a very nice woman whose attachment had gone awry.
Next, however, was a not so nice group of women, call them the Real Dogowners of the Upper Valley in reference to all those Real Housewives reality programs on TV. This group was dressed to the tee- at least what qualifies as such here in Vermont – blonde ponytails, short skirts, tanned legs. They seemed to accept my pugs and me all right since they were donned in their fashionable pink harnesses patterned with cute black and white skulls with bows on their heads. Everyone commented on the harnesses, my ticket into the in crowd. I knew we were in when I realized others were out. When a heavy set woman and her dirty-faced dog approached, one of the blondes whispered something in my direction. All I could make out was that she was “a townie” and the Real Dogowners soon disappeared after that. We remained to play with the townie and a group of friendly locals, who followed. If we have time we may return tomorrow. I think the Chug is a regular and the subtle dramas of the dog park make up for all those soap operas they took off the air.