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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Today At The Dog Park ...

I have this friend named Trevor. Trevor, to start, was a friend of a friend's roommate. Likeable on first glance, Trevor proved to be a constant source of amusement and adventure, and became a first-level friend. Trevor taught me how to sled on cafeteria trays. Trevor helped me cram for art history finals. Trevor helped my back to campus after consuming 29 gin and tonics at "10 Cent Well Drinks Night." And it was Trevor who talked me out of making a serious commitment to a girl who I thought was extremely proper - I later found out her nickname was "Rugburn."

Trevor was also the definition of "open." At keggers, it was a 50/50 proposition if he would be leaving with an inebriated sorority girl or drunk-on-his-ass frat dude. Trevor was heteroflexible and we never really discussed the issue, he was just being Trevor. But when Trevor recently breezed through the area on a business trip and asked if I wanted to see a place where "the sex and cruising was wild," I hesitated, weighing his crazy past with the excitement of reconnecting for a few hours. I agreed to be ready in an hour.

The Ohio springtime weather was bewitching as I waited outside. I was dressed casually but smart, nice chinos and a newish dress shirt. I wanted to look like an adult, but not too old. Surprisingly on time, Trevor pulled up with Sheba, his terrier/doberman/spawn of Satan mix. It seems we were going to the dog park to watch Sheba frolick with complete canine strangers.

I, of course, was overdressed for the outing, but Trevor just thought the whole thing was funny. So did Sheba, who in her excitement whizzed a strip down my left pant leg as she shared steering duties with Trevor.

After a 20 minute ride, we arrived at the park. About an eighth-of-a-mile square, the park was busy with two- and four-legged patrons. There were maybe seven other cars in the small parking lot. A variety of humans and dogs milled about, with the animals inside a fence with two volunteer "monitors" that worked each afternoon. I counted about 12 dogs so some people brought more than one beast to play.

The park itself was a mix of flat and wooded areas, littered with every type of ball and chew toy imaginable. Comfortable-looking benches sat close to the running area so that people could relax but staty close to their pets (most people stayed inside the fence with their animals). Everything seemed very well maintained.

Trevor quickly put Sheba on her retractable leash and went over to a bin that housed spare dog bowls and borrowed one. He filled it with water from a nearby spigot and motioned me over to a bench. "Watch this while I get her started," he instructed me and then towed Sheba (she fought the leash the whole way) over to the entrance gate.

As I sat, I glanced over a clearly painted set of rules for using the dog park. Most of it was common sense, but I also thought it was a very responsible move. No roughhousing, no leaving your dog unattended, no food inside the fence, a suggestion to use tha holding area just inside the gate to see how your animal was reacting to being so close to others, and, most importantly, immediate leashing and removal of your dog from the premises if he or she acted up. There was also a standard disclaimor about the city/county/parks department having no responsibility for your do or dog's actions ... legalspeak for you can't sue us if something happens.

Manners ... expectations ... nice looking facility ... what could go wrong? I'm sure the organizers of the Super Bowl, Carnivale, Mardi Gras, Gay Pride, and New Year's Eve in Times Square have the same delusions. It seemed like all I did was blink and the scene went from quaint and serene to lude and lawless. The two "volunteers," obviously individuals who liked dogs but didn't get to spend a lot of time with people, focused on talking up all the owners and didn't once glance at the dogs. The people on the benches who weren't deep in conversation with the helpers (Trevor was telling them both one story or another) had their noses in books or seemed to be deciding the fate of the world via cellphones. And the dogs, oh the dogs ... the growling and the chasing and the yapping and the teasing and the nipping and the chasing and the butt-sniffing and the attempted mounting ... it was out of control. I looked for cameras, first to corroborate what I was witnessing and then to record it for the reality series that was obviously taking place. Seriously, I looked for a studio audience and all the "grips" and "gaffers" and "best boys" because this couldn't be happening for real. And if it was a tv show or movie, then Sheba was a lead actor. She had latched on to a female beagle about her size and was hurriedly humping hindquarters to beat the band.

It was like seeing a car accident ... wanting to look away but unable to look away ... for several minutes before Trevor plopped down beside me, nudged me in the ribs playfully, and snickered, "Did I tell ya? Did I tell ya?"

He had told me. And Trevor, after all, is a man of his word.

POINT OF RANT: Think carefully before going places with Trevor.

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