Thursday, February 11, 2010
Tales From The Dog Park: Bullies or Babes?
At the Old Pearsall Road Dog Park in San Antonio, I see six, no, seven, no, six Pits (two of them puppies and two of them look alike blue fawn-colored Pits), a massive Rottie, two Boxers, two shaggy Goldens and a couple of rowdy mixes.
And that's just the welcoming committee, the dogs at the gate, the ones poking their noses through the fence waiting to get a good sniff.
Wow. Look at all those macho dogs. Pit Bulls, a Rotweiler and Boxers. He-man dogs. And then I glance at my two newly groomed Royal Standard Poodles (who five minutes earlier still had bows in their hair.) Well, looks are only looks; but my guys look like girls. Because they're poodles, with brand new hair cuts. I square my shoulders. Looks are deceiving. My dogs are all dog, too.
We reach the fence. I peer in. My shoulders sag. Look at them. They are all, well, such massive rough and tumble boys. I notice all of the Pits, the Boxers and the Rottie retain their manhoods (can't tell with the long-haired Goldens).
All that testosterone often translate into lots of squabbling, lots of positioning for power, lots of domination.
My guys'll get squashed under a pile of dog-fighting dogs to be top dog.
How, I wonder, can we slide unnoticed into this sea of machissmo?
They're at the gate, welcoming us in, slobbering, leaping and barking. Just being dogs, even though they look like bullies.
One of the Pits, an all-white bruiser, must be a bulldog mix, because he walks on his knuckles, pounds the pavement, sort of threateningly. And he grunts when he walks. And sniffs, "Watch it there, buster."
The Rottie's so muscular, he has no neck, just bulging shoulders and chest. He wears a Jack Nicholson, "Shining" grin rimmed in thick silver threads of spit.
I see one of the boxers circling, looking at us sideways, carrying a filthy large rubber toy in his jaws. He won't put it down. Or make direct eye contact. He arches his neck. Was that a growl?
The other Pits, all muscle and jaws, swarm like killer bees.
The potential for disaster heightens when I notice the people attending these dogs. All macho guys. All clean cut, muscular. Wearing hoodies. No doubt airmen from the nearby military base. Young. Twenty-somethings.
Oh, what do they know about dog behavior, fighting, power plays?
What to do, what to do?
We go in. Because my dogs want to.
Joshua prances to greet each man then fades from the crowd. Too much for him, I suppose. He plays it safe.
Jacob plows right into the crowd (Oh, Jacob!) and pals up with Rico, a tan-and-white Pit who clocks 0 to 60 just chasing a tennis ball. Rico's a cannonball after that ball, shot low to the ground, if he even touches the ground.
Jacob, to my dismay, can't follow the ball, even with his line of sight. Rico blasts off and Jacob prances, DANCES with his head and feet held high, like he's tip-toeing, or into ballet, looking toward where Rico goes. He meets Rico halfway back and starts nuzzling the dog's neck. NUZZLING! Rico ignores Jacob's advances and drops the ball at his macho master's feet.
Jacob steals the ball and prances around, teasing Rico and his man. This man does circles with Jacob to get the ball back, succeeds, and fires it off again for Rico to chase.
I'm shocked. Not at Jacob. At my own embarrassment. Why should I care if my dogs belly up to the bar or barre?
Then it all happens again. Rico soars. Jacob tip-toes. Rico scores. Jacob steals. The human persuades Jacob to drop the ball and the routine happens again. And again.
Yet when it happens again, I notice, PROUDLY, my boy's winning the race. He's making the score. He's faster than that speeding Rico bullet.
YEAH JACOB! GO JACOB!
Time and time again he shoots, he scores!
I get it. Jacob wasn't being a doll baby. He was taking his time scoping things out. Assessing the lay of the land. Calculating distances, getting the lead out, laying it on.
By the end of this play date, Jacob's covered in slobber. Panting. Ready to run again and again.
But it's time to go. A little dog, a Shitz Tzu, about a foot tall, has entered the fray and wants to take charge. She probably will. But we won't hang around to find out.
It's time for us to go.
So I collect my dogs like trophies and leave.