By Sean Dietrich
Taking your dogs to a dog park can be a fun and exciting experience, especially if your dogs are clinically deranged like mine.
We have a nice dog park near our house. And after a day spent in this nicely maintained park, my dogs are kinder, happier, more relaxed and less likely to destroy my baseball cap.
The exact moment we enter the park, the party begins. My dogs transform into wild creatures who are so excited they forget about normal things like behaving, using good manners, not digging unnecessary holes and not peeing in communal water bowls.
The park is a beautiful spot surrounded by a big wooden fence and pine trees. It is the official “hangout” for local dog-people. But my favorite thing about this place is watching the dog world in action.
There are natural laws in the dog kingdom that dogs somehow know to follow.
For example: When I open the gate and present my dogs to the other dogs, they must smell each other. Must with a capital “M.”
Modern experts tells us that this is an ancient custom dating back to the primal civilizations of miniature lap dogs who once coexisted peacefully with early man and always chewed on early man’s Atlanta Braves baseball caps.
Among dogs, this mass butt-smelling maneuver is a simple ritual, full of nuance and intrigue. Imagine 58 dogs gathering around one tail. Which sets off a chain reaction of sniffing within the pack. Dogs begin placing their noses into the private regions of everything located within a 10-foot radius—including oak trees, certain species of ferns, and me.
Once this is finished, new arrival dogs are then issued W9’s by veteran dogs and expected to become tax-paying members of dog society.
My two dogs have a unique set of skills which they offer the rest of the dog world.
Thelma Lou (bloodhound) specializes in smells. She is highly skilled when it comes to aromas. She takes every single smell with grave seriousness. During our nightly walks, she can’t walk more than a few steps without finding scents that, judging by her reactions, might affect national security. Some of these smells are even located beneath her own tail.
Our other dog, Otis (alleged Labrador), has a completely different collection of talents. Namely, he eats stuff. If it needs eating and moderate digesting, Otis is your guy.
In the dog park, Otis follows Thelma when she is on an important trail. To the untrained eye, my dogs might look like ordinary dogs, out for a joy ride. But, they are all business. In this park, there are two canines crusading for truth and justice.
(Cue “Charlie’s Angels Theme.”)
They run, full speed. Thelma sniffs dirt, making urgent zig-zags toward God-knows-where. Otis follows, pausing occasionally to eat pine cones, mud, and the pant leg of a teenage boy named Phillip.
Then. Otis finds something.
“BARK! BARK!” Otis says.
Literal translation: “Captain, I’ve found something!”
Otis has done it. He’s found something dead. Yes. There it is. It is dead. Otis has found a dead thing. Or it could actually be a tube sock. But, it’s a dead tube sock. Or it could be a used breast implant. Whatever it is, it’s the most awesome thing he’s ever seen.
Thelma comes for a closer look. She sniffs the implant-slash-tube sock which appears to be filled with stinky, squishy, poop-like matter. She concurs with Otis – it is definitely dead. And in an attempt to shed more light on the situation, Thelma rolls on the object until juices begin seeping out.
Otis barks again.
Translation: “WHOOP! THERE IT IS!”
Then, Otis lifts his leg on the object and officially declares this case closed.
Roll the credits.
So we can see that the dog park is fun. But in truth, it is short- lived. Because after four or five minutes of unsupervised activity, Thel and Otis become bored. I can see indifference wash over their faces. They can’t explain why, but after only six minutes this place has lost its charm.
My two dogs see me. They notice that I am not paying close enough attention to them. Which is unacceptable. To my dogs, an important part of their enjoyment is being watched. After all, what’s the point of rolling on a poopy sock if nobody is watching?
Thelma and Otis run toward me. They are barking. Tongues hanging out. And so help me, I believe they are smiling.
They are not slowing down. I brace for impact. They are wet, muddy, gross, smelly, wild, loud, demonic and covered in drool. They tackle me. I fall. It is death by licking. Thelma Lou steals my hat and runs for the hills. And I love them so much it hurts. My baseball cap is completely ruined.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Sean Dietrich is a columnist, and novelist, known for his commentary on life in the American South. His work has appeared in Southern Living, the Tallahassee Democrat, Southern Magazine, Yellowhammer News, the Bitter Southerner, the Mobile Press Register and he has authored seven books.