Dog Park

My new favorite people watching place is the dog park. It's a true panoply of dog people. People with little dogs, big dogs, giant dogs, and medium dogs. There are beautiful dogs and weirdo dogs. Full breed dogs and inventive mixes. Reggie is a medium, beautiful, full bred English Cocker Spaniel. And we as the dog owners, size each other up and make certain assumptions about each other based on our dogs. For example:

"Is she a Golden Retriever Dachshund mix?"
--Nope. Actually he's just English Cocker Spaniel."
"Oh!"
"What kind of dog is yours--seems like such a sweetheart."
"Oh she is. She's a rescue so you know, we don't really know. But we just love her! She had a lot of abuse so she was so skittish at first."

From this exchange I know that she thinks I should have made the morally superior choice and rescued a dog instead of buying him from a puppy mill. That I just don't care about all those poor dogs needing good homes and instead I needed a brand new hoity toity dog with fancy papers. And I think she probably shares a plate with her dog and exhausts the people around her from needing to be affirmed all the time. But then our dogs play together for awhile and she laughs at my running dialog of what the dogs must be thinking. And we're friends. Like the kind of friend you hope will learn by your example.

A group of stoned teenage/early 20s boys came in the other day with their medium, beautiful, pitbull mix. One the guys was so stoned and ill-dressed for the weather that he just stared at the trees with his arms inside of his jersey.

"Dude. Dude. Dude. Your dog is totally sniffing that other dogs butt. He's sniffing his butt! Dude you're dog is totally gay for that dog."
"Shut up."
"Dude he's like obsessed with butts."
"Shut up. God, Machete, go play."
Then some dogs start fighting and he leads his dog over it to get him to join in and assert his toughness. Machete wanders back to Reggie who tries to hump him.

I think the owner is clearly a tender hearted guy with a cultivated douche-y attitude that overcompensates for his secret desires to wear nice pants and to hug is friends whenever the moment strikes him. And I feel for him, but I think it's stupid to name a dog Machete. And he probably thinks I'm a nice enough white lady but wishes I didn't have such a pretty looking dude dog.

You just really don't know who you're going to meet. Once there was a giant bowling ball of a man with a big, beautiful, yappy collie. A group of twentysomethings came in with their dog and began to throw a football around. The yappy collie chased the football from person to person yapping. The kids laughed and pet the dog. The bowling ball man was not impressed. He grouchily told them that this was a DOG park not a PEOPLE park and they should take their game elsewhere. I'm happy to report the twentysomethings were very polite to this man. They basically said that they weren't sure why it was a big deal and that they DID have a dog but they left and wished him a good day. I'm always worried people in my generation are going to embarrass me but they were surprisingly gracious. I wouldn't have minded a little more backbone, but this IS Seattle. And Seattle people are politically correct and polite.

For instance, a woman with a big, beautiful lab was getting humped by some other dog and she kept yelling at her dog, "Say No Thank you and run away!" It would have been awesome if the dog would have turned around and said, "RO RANK ROU!" But she didn't. And she didn't run away either.

All this observation is basically my way of trying to figure out what kind of dog owner I am. Seattle is a dog haven. They bring their dogs everywhere and expect you to think "that so cool." But honestly, until we got Reggie, I didn't really think having dogs everywhere was so cool. I got bit once walking down John on Capitol Hill. The dog was being walked by a lady and a little kid. And I noticed them, smiled a little and then wham! The dog was biting my arm. The lady dragged him off before he could do any real damage but my coat was ripped and the down feathers were fluttering around me like I was in a snow globe. The lady apologized but said it wasn't her dog. I waved my ripped arm sleeve around like "what are you going to do about this!" And she just shrugged and walked quickly away. And then so did I, feathers trailing. Since then I have not been a bit wary of pit bulls and Seattle dog people.

When we decided we would get a dog, I figured we would get a rescue. Shaughn and I started sending pictures of dogs to each other with captions like, "how about this one?" and "This one is gluten free? No way." Not that I was going to be baking doggie cinnamon rolls or anything but I just kept imagining a dog rubbing his doggie belly saying, "My naturopath doesn't think I should be eating so much wheat." "This one likes long car rides." Cool, I guess? Or is that just a cover up because they don't have very many other nice things to say about it? This dog will bite your face off and poop on your pillow but hey! he loves long car rides!

In the midst of this search my parents came out for a visit and asked if we had talked to John yet. John is a very close friend of ours who raises hunting dogs at this happy kennel in Vermont. I actually worked there for a summer doing their bookkeeping and drinking their sparkling water. I hadn't talked to John about getting a dog because his puppies are the equivalent of designer shoes at a fancy boutique and really all I could afford were knock-offs at my local Good Will---or maybe Target if they were having a sale.  Plus I couldn't imagine how we would get the dog out here. But Dad assured me that they shipped dogs all over the place and that he maybe already mentioned that we were looking for a dog to John. So I called.
"Hey! Mis! So can I give you a dog or what?" And a couple weeks later, Reggie, was on a plane. I was so nervous about his trip. I cried at work mid day just thinking of all the things that could go wrong. I'd had a tough year last year and I just didn't think I could deal with something else going wrong. We picked him up in this warehouse behind the airport and there were a few anxious minutes waiting while they brought his crate from the plane to the warehouse. When I spotted a crate and a little tan doggie moving around in it I had this magnetic and exciting moment thinking, "That is my dog." And I interrupted some weirdo lady talking to the lady behind the counter to say just that. "That's my dog out there!" And she let me into the locked warehouse to get him and eagerly asked me to let him out of his crate. And of course he peed as soon as he got out. And of course I had paper towels (you don't nanny for 10 years without learning a few tricks). We had the cutest cuddliest drive home ever.

And I love my dog so much. But he doesn't sleep with us. And he doesn't have free range of the house because he keeps finding things to eat that I don't want to pick up in his poop later. He spends chunks of time in his crate and doesn't seem to mind unless we lie down on the couch and which he thinks is really unfair. "When you were busy doing things I totally got it and was happy to just chill out chewing on this tasty bone you got me but now you're laying down! I could totally be next to you! Come on! What is your problem! You are SO MEAN! OhMYGOD, are you choking? Are you feeling ok? I NEED TO CHECK ON YOU!!!"

And we make walk nicely on a leash (or try to) and not jump on people, and learn tricks. And we don't assume everyone wants to pet him and love on him just because he's awesome. And we try not to spoil him too much. But he has it pretty good. He gets "biologically appropriate" dog food. And Shaughn buys him bull penis treats and squeaky toys for him to demolish. Some mornings I let him snuggle with us in bed where he aggressively cuddles by digging his head in our armpits and flopping back and forth between us on the comforter like, "Holy shit this is soft!"

Yesterday he got neutered. I felt pretty bad for him. But he was getting humpy at the dog park making it a little less fun to bring him. I mean every dog is a little humpy at the dog park, but Reggie would find another dog and obsessively try to hump it. Boy or girl dog, he'd follow them acting like he was just playing but as soon as they stopped, Reggie would start trying to hump. Some of these other dogs were just trying to play catch with their owners and would retrieve a ball only to start getting humped as soon as they dropped the ball. Mostly Reggie just goes for a leg or maybe the stomach (and once, embarrassingly, the face). But the last time we were at the dog park, he had finally figured out the whats and wheres and Shaughn and I were running all over the dog park pulling him off of this (ok I'll say it) trollop of  a dog who kept coming back for more.

So if we were going to do get him neutered now was as great of a time as any. In general, he seems to like the vet because they give him lots of treats that, so far, seem to overshadow getting his temperature taken anally. But I felt so guilty watching him bound along to the back room so excited for his treats. He had no idea what he was going to lose for those stale biscuits. Picking him up, he was so wobbly and cute and in surprisingly good spirits. But he seems to check himself out every once in awhile like, "Hey what the...?" While we say "Here boy! A toy! It squeaks!"

This morning he cuddled with me for a long time on the couch and was just the sweetest little doggie ever. Shaughn and I took turns snuggling with him while the other one did the chores. For Shaughn and I it's kind of like getting all the perks of being sick--tv, meals on couch, sipping drinks--without actually having to be sick. And Reggie is mostly a good patient. But then he gets this wild hair that tells him to RUN! SPIN! STRETCH--ooh OUCH! SKIP STRETCHING!! And it's up to me to keep him from going too crazy and I'm super horrible at it. I pat the couch trying to get him to lounge some more. "Come on Reggie, one more episode of Scandal and we can take a SLOW walk around the block. I thought you loved Olivia Pope." And Reggie just looks at me like, "We both know you mean three more, you lazy lady. Plus, Haven't you already seen all of these?" Honestly, he's kind of judgy when he's not feeling well.

I don't know what it'll be like taking him back to the dog park after he's feeling better. But I hope he stops humping so much and learns to enjoy all the delights a platonic relationship has to offer, like talking about art and your feelings and how to make a perfect cheesecake. And the very idea of humping another dog will seem so uncivilized, so uncouth, he would never dream of engaging in such a primal act. And if not, at least we can stop chasing him around, worrying about who's liable in an accidental pregnancy. Because frankly, it is slim pickin's on the Dog-Owner-In-Law front.


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