Recently, I had to go out of town for three days, which meant leaving the family dog in the care of my husband. The dog took it badly. Normally quiet, poised and well-mannered, he had the doggy equivalent of a nervous breakdown--whining, moping, spewing and generally soiling all the once habitable spaces.
After 24 hours in canine hell, my husband called to say he couldn't go on this way--there was no safe place to step and the combined sounds of lamenting and wretching had become intolerable. He was considering, he said, putting both the dog and himself out of their mutual misery.
This, clearly, was a desperate situation, and it required a quick but workable solution. I got the dog on the phone (actually, I convinced my husband--who could now add humiliation to his list of grievances--to hold the phone up to the dog's ear). It seemed to me that the problem was that the poor animal had not been sufficiently prepared for the shock and sense of loss that would accompany my departure. So I explained things to him, in great detail. Though I was gone, I told the dog, I would be coming home soon. I felt certain that the dog took comfort in these words.
My husband now thinks I am insane.
But I'll bet there are at least 3,000 people who would be on my side. Certainly Kirstie Lambert of Ventura would understand. She is taking her 95-pound Great Pyrenees for a glamour make-over in preparation for Saturday's fourth annual Big Dog Parade and Canine Festival, a fund-raiser for a number of charities, in Santa Barbara.
"It's kind of an early Dog Day of Summer," said Leo Smith, who wrote this week's story on the parade (page 36). "Festival organizers are expecting as many as 1,500 dogs from L.A., Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Dogs come in various costumes, some of them quite elaborate, and some of them even convince their owners to dress up too."
Smith tried to enter, but he was lacking one important element. A dog, big or small. "My cat and I," he said, "will be watching the parade from a polite distance."