Spring has arrived in Harper’s Valley. The sun is shining. The temperatures are starting to flirt with the 90*F mark. The mesquite trees have started to
drop all manner of crap into the pool share their vernal bounty. And, of course, the scary people and pets have returned to the dog parks. I am not sure where the scary people and pets go during the winter but, wherever it is, they come back in the Spring as sure as swallows return to Capistrano or Tea Party members show up for a white-supremacist rally. At Grover’s Basin Dog Park this morning the scaries were out in force.
It was with a sense of foreboding that Harper and I left the relative security of our Honda Accord. The Hummer parked next to us had just brought forth a charming young couple with the biggest pit bull I’ve ever seen. Picture an over-stuffed ottoman; but self-propelled… and on a mission. Let’s call him Brutus. Brutus was dragging his mom & dad across the parking lot. I found little comfort in seeing that they were using a length of steel cable as a leash. The cable is probably stronger than a leather leash but they say a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. I’m pretty sure the weakest link here was dad’s wrist. Also, the whole arrangement seemed like something one would put together as a result of some kind of lesson previously learned. There are always a lot of sweet pit bulls in the park but we gave this one a wide berth on our way to the large dog enclosure.
Once inside the enclosure I experienced a slight reduction in anxiety. Brutus was trying to chew his way through a cyclone fence to get into the small dog enclosure. He sounded quite serious about it but his dad was explaining to all within ear shot that his dog just wanted to play. Besides, he added; the dog was a little aggressive so he never let him off his leash. I could tell I was not the only one wondering why he brought Brutus to the off-leash enclosure if he couldn’t be trusted ‘off-cable’ but no one asked for fear dad might decide that maybe this was the morning to give ‘off-cable’ another try. We all just backed slowly away without breaking eye contact.
On the other side of the enclosure, Harper was making her usual rounds of sniffing all & sundry. A friendly dog, I’d guess a boxer/rottweiler mix, let’s call him Exlax, paused nearby to make a fairly large pile. There are posted signs reminding people to clean up after their pets but Exlax’ dad, let’s call him Harry, seemed oblivious. I considered saying something to Harry until I noticed he was wearing a holster with a semi-automatic hand gun. As one pulls into the parking lot, there are signs prohibiting firearms in the park. I decided, since Harry seemed to be on a roll with his ignoring-all-the-signs strategy, I would leave well enough alone. I had to ask myself; did I feel lucky?…. not so much. I decided that Harper and I might enjoy a visit to the nearby small dog enclosure for a change of scenery.
Brutus had been unsuccessful in chewing his way through the fence. Actually, Brutus and his parents were making a tactical retreat back toward their Hummer. The dog park crowd can be an unforgiving lot when confronted with the ill-tempered. Brutus and his parents were feeling some peer pressure from a torch-wielding mob of angry dog owners offering to assist them in locating the exit.
I was happy to see that the pet owners in the small dog enclosure seemed to have left their hand guns at home this Sunday morning; or at least opted to go with a concealed weapons strategy. Yep; the small dog enclosure seemed the right place to be, or so I thought. That was before the arrival of Satan’s own chihuahua. Let’s call him Hannibal Lecter.
I could hear Hannibal coming about a block away. A less-than-fashionable matron was waddling down the hill with no less than 8 leashes clutched in her paw. At the end of each leash was a small dog of varying, often indeterminate, breed. Already testy being on-leash in the pack of the damned, by the time Hannibal got inside the off-leash enclosure he was in the midst of a full psychotic break. I have never heard such vicious-sounding noises come from such a little dog. His mom had fitted him with a leather muzzle that covered about 75% of his face but this did not stop little Hannibal from yapping viciously and lunging at any creature, human and canine alike, that ventured within leash length of him. By the time I heard the third ‘Friend of Dave’ (cranky senior citizen) shout at the matron to get Hannibal out of the park, Harper and I decided we’d sufficiently wrung the joy out of our visit to the dog park for the day. We left.
It’s a rare day when we can’t find tranquility in either enclosure. We probably should have stuck it out a little longer. Brutus was gone. Dirty Harry was on his way out and I could tell the shunning of Hannibal would send him and his cohorts packing in short order. I might have even found a way to turn the whole experience into an icebreaker with some of my fellow dog lovers. Note to self: next time you go the Grover’s Basin – take a torch for the team-building activity.