Andy wanted a dog. We adopted a rescue named Woofie.
Woofie wanted to play with everything, including the cats. The cats did not want to play with Woofie. In vain would Woofie bark and prance around in front of them. The cats would only hide, hit, and hiss.
Woofie was sad. Until we discovered the Redondo Beach Dog Park.
The Redondo Beach Dog Park is a shockingly large undeveloped area in Los Angeles County. There are two fenced areas: a small one for little dogs, and a massive one for large dogs. The big dog side even has an extra area that could be closed off, but is usually open. Dog owners come from all over. Some dogs aren’t very social – they just want to stretch their apartment-cramped legs chasing tennis balls.
Others, like Woofie, were very social. A the park, Woofie’s tail wagged non-stop. He waited by the entry gate to meet every dog that arrived. I imagined his greetings like this: “Hello! I am Woofie! Delighted to meet you! Big dogs on the left, small dogs and puppies on the right. Now I will sniff your butt.”
Woofie also loved people. Though his “hello” to men was disconcerting. Woof would prance over, jam his snout into a guy’s crotch, and flip his oversized head back. More than one guy doubled over, cringing, while his buddy also doubled over, laughing. Andy, too, found this hilarious.
Men are mean like that.
Woofie invariably found several dogs to wrestle and run with. Most of the dogs were friendly, as were the owners.
And then there were the Purebred Dog Owners. They had their own cliques. Breed cliques, really. The Rhodesian Ridgeback owners all came on certain days, to meet up with other Ridgeback owners. They only talked to each other while their dogs played, but they didn’t seem to mind if Woofie the Mongrel played with their purebreds. The same held true for the Great Dane clique and the Bernese Mountain Dog clique. The Australian Shepherds didn’t have a clique – their dogs were all loners intent on balls.
The owners of energetic working dogs like Huskies, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers were the most numerous, but they’d gratefully thank anyone who had a dog willing to wear out theirs.
The Poodle People, though, were the Ultimate Clique. If you did not have a show dog with a continental cut, you and your dog did not exist. The Poodle People all met at the far end of the park and huddled together. They even closed the annex gate to keep the rescued riffraff away.
But you know what’s great about dogs? Dogs don’t care what other dogs look like. Dogs also don’t believe in fences. A gorgeous black standard poodle with her continental show cut leapt over that gate. She galloped into the mass of mutts. The mutts chased her. Tongue out, having the time of her life, that poodle blazed a trail around the park’s perimeter, like comet trailing a canine tail.
Her owner followed, screeching, “Call off your dogs! She’s a show dog! Get your dogs away from her!” She huffed hopelessly after Queen Coquette Show Poodle.
One mutt owner just shook his head. “Ha, we couldn’t catch them if we tried.”
Andy snickered. “What the hell did you bring a dog in here for, if not to play?”
I yelled, “Go, Woofie! Catch that show girl! She looks like she’d love to wrestle!”
Some fifteen minutes later, Queen Coquette Show Poodle’s owner dragged her out of the park. Queen Coquette was coated in dirt, bark shavings, and a several cups of Woofie’s drool. Her owner looked pissed. Queen Coquette looked thoroughly unrepentant.
Alas, we never saw Queen Coquette again. She’s probably bored out of a her skull on an ivory dog bed somewhere.
As weird as the Poodle People were, at least they paid attention to their animals. Plenty of other owners would sit on a bench while on their phones, utterly ignoring their dogs. It’s against the rules – you’re supposed to stay with your dog — but it’s not a problem if other you have a dog who gets along with all other dogs. It IS a problem if your dog decides he has a problem with another dog.
And what happens a negligent owner has a big, potentially aggressive dog, going after a smaller one?
I’ve spoken to a lot of disgusted owners who’ve had their dog stitched up. But sometimes, dogs get lucky. Sometimes Woofie is there.
Early one morning, a huge German Shepherd decided he did not like a small, young Golden Retriever. He snarled and snapped at her. She hunkered down in the dirt. Other dog owners searched and yelled for the Shepherd’s owner:
“Who owns this Shepherd?”
“Does anyone know?”
“GET YOUR DOG!”
The owner was nowhere to be found. And no dog-savvy human is willing to grab a strange dog’s collar, not when it’s larger than a K-9 Police Dog and snarling. The Golden Retriever’s owner waved frantically at the Shepherd, telling it to sit, telling it no, and getting in front of her cowering dog. The Shepherd darted around her and lunged in at the Golden from the side—
–only to skid to a halt as Woofie bounded in front of the little dog. Woof barked, poking his big snout at the Shepherd. The Shepherd backed off, surprised. He barked back at Woofie, then lunged in at the Golden from another angle. Woofie cut in front once again, whining and flipping his head. Again, the confused Shepherd backed up. For two very long minutes, Woofie countered the giant German Shepherd’s every attack on the little Golden, without biting or becoming aggressive himself.
Woofie just got in the way. Kind of like he did in the kitchen at home.
The owner finally showed up, snapped a leash on the German Shepherd, and dragged the dog out of the park, showered by various owners’ angry, outraged shouts.
Meanwhile, Woofie received effusive praise and pats on his head from all the Dog Persons:
“You’re a hero!’
“Such a smart, handsome boy!”
The Golden Retriever’s owner hugged Woofie and then hugged me. “What a great…what kind of dog is he?”
“He’s a rescue mutt. Part Labrador, part Dane, and maybe American Bulldog.”
“Well, he’s one hundred percent amazing! He just kept drawing off the attacks. He knew just how to save her!”
She hugged Woofie one last time. He gave her a tongue facial.
I soon left the dog park with my so-called Hero Dog.
I lectured Woofie as he pranced home: “Don’t let it all this hero crap go to your head, buddy. Because I know. I know exactly what you were saying every time you jumped in there and barked. And it wasn’t ‘I will save you, fair maiden! If you want to get to her, Evil German Shepherd, you will have to go through me!’” I shook my head at him. “No way, dude. What you were really saying was:
‘Hey! No fair! Don’t play with her! Play with me!’