Saturday, April 25, 2009

Found Objects

When I walk with my girls at Dog Park, I tend to look down a lot. What do I see? Mostly the things you expect: turds, dirt, rocks, trash, mysterious holes, sticks, and dead creatures—birds, frogs, mice, or snakes. (Tho' yesterday, I stepped on the tail of a very live snake. I shrieked like a girl and hopped in the air. So did the snake.) In spring, of course, there are the wildflowers. Sometimes, though, I find more durable treasures—unusual objects or ordinary objects that strike me as beautiful. Last week, I found several broken strands of barbed wire and a button torn from a thick canvas jacket or trousers. Years ago, while wandering in the creek bed along the trail, I found (and lugged home) a chunk of limestone with a perfect imprint of a shell. Here they are: 

These objects remind me of just how the natural and human worlds intersect at Dog Park. People try to cordon things off with wire and hold things in place with buttons, and yet wire breaks and buttons tear off. And where do they land? On the ground, next to the rocks and all the rest. 

Friday, April 24, 2009

It's Dirty Work, but Somebody's Got to Do It

Good morning, everyone. I feel compelled to post the announcement that most folks have already received from the listserv about the poop pick-up "party" that will take place on Saturday morning at Dog Park. It was arranged by Laure McLaughlin, the informal liaison between us Parkers and the state agencies on whose land we walk and poop. (Aside: Yesterday I was at Park with a friend who brought her little girl, so cute in her cowgirl boots. The little girl had to pee, so her mother let her go right under our pecan trees. Is little girl pee worse than dog pee in the taxonomy of pee? I felt a little shiver of annoyance. Maybe I was just jealous that I have to hold it when the dogs can let loose anywhere.) 

Anyway, here are the particulars of the Poop Pick-up, for those who don't already know: 

Come when you can (starting @ 10am) with gloves, trash bags, dogs ON LEASH and whatever else to help clean up the dogpark. It's also a great time for newbies to learn the unofficial rules we live by, such as:
    * avoiding agency buildings and personnel at all costs;
    * picking up after your dog every visit and actually placing it in the trash receptacles;
    * not allowing your dog(s) to chase or harass anyone, especially those you don't know personally, such as agency personnel,  bikers, joggers and walkers without dogs;
    * keeping our dogs and our dog park friendly and respectful of others.

The point about keeping dogs leashed, I'm sure, is about making a token effort to obey the signs. I won't even bring my dogs. How can I pick up other dogs' poop when I've got two unhappy dogs on leashes attached to me? 

Laure also let everyone know that both the state agency and the Texas State Cemetery Board are aware of the plans for pick-up.  (Insert smarty-pants eye roll here.) I know that the point of alerting the agencies is to let people—whose good graces we count on—know that we are doing our best to be good trespassers—er, neighbors. Still, a girl and her dogs roil a bit about having to let authorities know that we are out there in the first place. (Insert shrug here.) I am not a good team-player; that's why I hang with dogs. I only grudgingly admit that I am connected to all things in the universe. Om, baby. See you at the Dog Park. Don't forget  your gloves. --z

The Quotable Dog

While flipping idly through my eight available digital TV channels, I paused on a cooking & travel show that featured a farmer harvesting truffles in Provence. The farmer leashed up his truffle-hunting dog, and the program host said, "I thought truffle farmers traditionally used pigs to find the truffles." The farmer replied, "Dogs love their masters; pigs love truffles." 

Art: "Dandy Dinmont Terriers in a S[n]owy Landscape" by Thomas Earl, 19th century painter

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

By the Old Watering Hole

For me, one of the fascinating things about Dog Park is that it is a microsociety that deals with many of the questions any emerging social grouping must answer. For example: What are the rules? (If you have to ask, . . . ) Who's in charge? (It's an anarchy!) Where can we find shelter and water? The answer to the last question is "At the water bucket." 

Traditionally, the water bucket has been found under the metal awning that juts out from one of the state agency buildings that defines the border of Dog Park. The bucket lives there for the simple reason that there is an outside spigot and hose easily accessed by Dog Parkers.  Our current bucket is courtesy of Erica, owner of Joey and Coco. The fading of her clever squirrel applique shows the wear and tear of many months of being filled up, dumped out, slobbered over, and peed on. 

As in any society where resources are scarce, the bucket and the water with which we fill it have been a cause of friction between the dog walkers and the agency on whose land we walk. A few years ago, there was a security guard who hated us and our dogs. Whenever she saw a dog, she would throw up her hands, scream, and start running—exactly the behavior to attract the interest of the dogs. She often yelled at us and threatened to have us arrested. But she was smart enough to realize that the one thing we Parkers absolutely needed during the hot summer months was water. Whenever the guard was on duty, she would make sure that the water supply to the hose was turned off—from inside the building. Clever, my dear, but not clever enough. We Dog Parkers are like rats and New Yorkers. We don't give up prime real estate. So we did what every higher species does. We adapted. We emigrated.

First, we moved the location of the bucket. We set up a watering station under the pecan trees at the bottom of the trail from the north parking lot. And instead of a bucket, we had a crazy collection of plastic bowls and metal dishes. Water was still an issue. Some folks brought gallon jugs from home. Some donated pitchers and old milk jugs, which we would carry to a hose outside another building on the property that was not convenient or safe for the dogs to be. Of course, problems arose. The empty jugs got blown around by the wind and chewed and peed on by the dogs. Some people put their dogs' names on their jugs and would get bent out of shape if the jugs disappeared or were empty when they wanted to use them. When the landscaping guys mowed that area, they would throw out all the bowls and jugs, and we'd have to start over from scratch. It was a constant struggle. In the end, however, the security guard who gave us so much grief moved on to another job or to a mental health facility. The victors in this battle of wills, we literally reclaimed the high ground. 

The buckets have changed over the years. We've had algae-encrusted plastic buckets, rusty bread pans, ceramic dog bowls, and cheap  Tupperware knockoffs. Newbies at the Park have often wondered about the safety of using receptacles that looked like they were donated or left out by the state agency. They worried that the workers might have put poison or antifreeze in the containers. (Such a low  opinion of our civic work force!) I think that the design Erica created for the current bucket makes even newbies realize that the container is clearly ours. As a result, I think that we take better care of it. And now that summer is definitely on its way, that's a very good thing. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

You Must Have Been a Beautiful Puppy . . .

Welcome to a new feature here on the blog. It's called "Who's the Cute Puppy?" I will post puppy pictures of dogs from the Park, and you, dear readers, get to guess who the dog is. Let's meet our first contestant:

Aww. Cute, no? Can you guess who this is? 

Play the Jeopardy theme song in your head as you think your answer quietly to yourself. 

Or e-mail your answer to me in a comment, along with pix of your own pupz, so we can keep this game going. 

Okay. Time's up. 
Answer: It's Bailey! 

Thanks for playing everybody. And special thanks to Scott for sending along baby pictures of his girl and inspiring our newest feature. 

Monday, April 20, 2009

Object Least Likely to Be Found at Dog Park

Having only ever seen anvils in cartoons, I was impressed by this particular specimen, which can be found tucked among the junk outside the outbuilding where we get water for the dogs. What's it for? Again, I thought the purpose of anvils was to fall whistling from the desert sky and land with a clang on the heads of unsuspecting coyotes. Bindi's dad, Dean, says anvils are currently used in modern society for the purpose of welding. Cool. 

Sunday, April 19, 2009

It's Gonna Take an Ocean

Consider this posting a public service announcement. I have talked to several people who do not know what poison ivy looks like or that it grows like the weed it is at Dog Park. Here you go. Take a good look.

Meet Toxicodendron radicans

According to Delena Tull, the author of Edible and Useful Plants of Texas and the Southwest: A Practical Guide, poison ivy takes a different appearance in different parts of the country. So folks from other places may not recognize it. Tull says that there are several types of poison ivy that grow in the Great State of Texas. The type that grows at Dog Park is the classic version—shiny, three-leafed clusters that grow close to the ground but may also vine their way up trees. Our poison ivy doesn't grow near the walking paths but in the shady clumps of trees down by the creek and along the middle pathway. Most people I've talked with get it from their animals after the dogs have chased something into the trees. 

Chemistry lesson, anyone? Poison ivy sap contains a chemical called urushiol. The sap can be released by the slightest touch of any part of the ivy--stem, leaf, flower, root, or berry. Your physical reaction depends on how sensitive you are to the urushiol and how intense your encounter is with the ivy or its sap. My father always claimed to be immune to poison ivy, and I must have inherited his tough hide. On the rare occasions that I have gotten p.i., I sported one or two teeny-tiny blisters that were so maddeningly itchy and hot, I can only imagine the agony of being more sensitive. 

What about the dogs? After an informal survey of Web sites, I have learned that, in general, dogs are protected from the sap by their oily fur. (Outbreaks of blisters on the exposed tummy skin might be caused by poison ivy, but you should not make any assumptions and check with your vet. When my Muzzy was a puppy, I thought she had poison ivy, but the rash was actually a bacterial infection that was easily treated by antibiotics.) However, the poison ivy sap is easily transferred to us when we pet them. One site recommended wearing gloves and wiping the dogs down with dry towels immediately after they have been in or near the ivy. 

For more info about poison ivy (but not dogs), check out this helpful Jane Brody column from the New York Times: 
I dare you; try to read it without feeling itchy. 

Judging by how lush the ivy is right now, I think we are in for a bumper crop this year. So let's be careful out there.