Tuesday, March 25, 2014

cliques and clicks

Since getting two dogs, SB and I have been thrust into a whole new subset of Happy Valley residents. We know the rugby players and the pub regulars, and now we are part of the dog set, or more specifically, the dog park set. You see, there is the set that hangs out at the small park in front of the restaurants and another set that stands near the Circle K but we don't belong to those groups. Their dogs like to sit by their owners as the humans chat but our girls are a bit more active than that. Maybe in ten years we will join the sit and observe groups but for now we run wild and free in the big park up the hill.

I had acquainted myself with quite a few dog owners before getting Tippy and Elsie because I really, really, very badly wanted a dog so a few familiar faces were happy for me when they saw me rock up to the park with my own dogs finally. While it is not considered good form to run up to people with children and gush over how much you love kids, dog people are mostly cool with random strangers approaching their dogs as long as the dogs are social with humans, not on some sort of training exercise and the humans proceed with respect and caution. I've had some shrieking children run up to the furbabies and I've had to intercede and ask the kids to be slow and gentle. I also once gave a child stink eye when I saw him sneaking up to Tippy with a rock held over his head. He quickly ran away. That kid's gonna grow up to be either a criminal or a wildly successful banker.  Or both.

Within the dog park set, there are more subgroups that within the Indian subcontinent. While many of us are multinationals who get along with the global population, there are several very specific groups. You have the pedigree, small dog owners, who stare disdainfully at mongrels and aren't comfortable with bigger dogs playing with their prize lapdogs. There is a Chinese owner of a Husky/Akita clan that occasionally let their dogs mix with the many Goldens that live in the hood but not much else. And there is the Constant Training Crew, which aren't quite a group but solitary individuals united by similar behavior even if they don't interact. They wear fanny packs, carry clickers and various leashes, usually look rather grumpy, and for some reason like to wear all black, commando type gear. Click training is very popular and I have read a lot of good reviews about it but I can't see myself carrying a clicker all the time.

SB and I were made part of the rescue dog group before we knew who they were. When SB picked up Tippy and Elsie, they had a picture taken of them and published on the HKDR blog, unbeknownst to us. When I entered the park for the very first time, I recall being greeted by several friendly individuals and being surprised by the level of friendliness. Like parents who want their kids to play together, dog owners are generally friendly to each other anyway, but the greetings that I received were exceedingly warm. And so I joined their group. Not all of the dogs are Hong Kong mongrels; plenty of pure breeds need rescuing from idiotic or cruel owners. Lot of people get good looking Beagles and then abandon them with complaints about how boisterous and musical they are. Did they not read about Beagles before buying one? And of course there are those people who failed basic science and don't seem to understand that puppies one day become dogs.

Now even within the groups, there are other divisions. Certain dogs are less well behaved than others and are gossiped about. Ralph's owner never picks up after him and Barney has food possessiveness issues. Nobody understands why Dougie's owner won't desex him and his dog tries to pee on or hump all of the other dogs to the point of being a menace without any owner intervention. And did you know that Shadow bit Mikey the other day?  All of this information gets conveyed to me within the first moments of arriving at the park. I can only imagine what they say about my two monsters.  My dogs are absolutely insane about squeaky toys. If you bring a squeaky toy, they will stick to you like glue. I suspect that part of the reason why Tippy follows me so closely is that I have a high pitched voice. They certainly go wild when SB sings to them in falsetto. They are especially fond of Perry Ferrell's voice. Right now, someone is probably conveying the news that Tippy and Elsie and squeaky toy thieves. At least they don't eat other dogs' poop, not that I'm naming names or anything (Mikey).

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