You don’t just adopt a dog, you adopt a community
I arrived in Vegas early on a Saturday morning. My best friend met me in the lobby of the Luxor and followed me as I bought a gin and tonic and an energy drink. I had to catch up fast – the rest of the entourage had already been there two days. A new job had prevented me from an earlier arrival, but I could also tell from the bedraggled look on my friend’s face that the tardiness may have also spared my wallet and liver.
I stormed into the bachelor’s hotel room and began jumping in earnest on his bed. “WAKE THE F–K UP, BUDDY! YOU’RE GETTING MARRIED!” His hangover groans only induced me to pounce harder; this was another best friend I had known for nearly 15 years, and he had certainly inflicted far worse damage on me during that time. A little shaky-wakey was fair turn-about at this point.
I found the best man’s suite and pounded with S.W.A.T. force-vigor on the door. Chris ambled to the door in boxers, gripped my hand, swatted my back in a manly bear hug. Chris and I had worked together for nearly a decade at the same newspaper where the bachelor and my best friend had worked. As I walked into the room, Andy, a high school classmate, lifted his head from his pillow, mumbled, “hey, Lacy” and dropped his noggin again. A brother-in-law was passed out on a separate bed.
I surveyed the wreckage: clothes strewn across the floor, emptied beer bottles stacked on all available surfaces, unlit cigars, flasks, money clips, Maxim magazines, and an inflatable blow-up doll named Patty. But most notably, it was a room of dear friends, reunited in chaos. I sensed nostalgia and vomit.
An unfamiliar face emerged from one of the beds. He introduced himself simply as “Ken.” Suspiciously, I inquired as to how he knew the bachelor.
“We met at the dog park,” Ken answered nonchalantly.
Uhhhhhhh … Excuse me much?! The dog park?! Here I was at my friend’s bachelor party, a long overdue reunion of kindred troublemakers, and I had to share this time with my friend’s yuppy puppy buddy.
*Quick side note: I would spend the rest of that weekend in Vegas realizing just how fricking awesome Ken was. This young man is actually part of the team that navigates rovers across the dusty surface of Mars for NASA. No joke. If I ever begin to feel a bit cocky over my own professional achievements, I just remind myself that a new friend of mine drives robots on an alien planet.
It turns out Greg’s former black lab had bonded with Ken’s husky a few years back, and subsequently, the two men had bonded as well. Still, I didn’t quite understand it at the time. How could a dog park friend transform into a member of a wedding party? I realize I shouldn’t second-guess how friendships are formed, but the dog park? Really??
Fast-forward one month: My girlfriend and I become dog owners. Suddenly we’re doting and drooling over our precious pup (a lab husky mix) and we also realize we’re quickly becoming the world’s most obnoxious doggy parents.
And then come the puppy classes. And the morning walks when we run into other dogs. And, of course, the dog park.
You cannot help making friends at the dog park; your dog makes them for you. As your own dog allies with particular dogs (and she will pick out her own friends; don’t attempt to make them for her), you naturally gravitate towards the other dogs’ owners, and the small-talk in this environ is easier to make than small-talk under most meeting circumstances post-college. Questions such as “how old?” and “what breed mix is that?” soon lead into more exciting inquiries such as, “how many teeth have you found around the house?” and “how have you adjusted to 5 a.m. wake-ups?”
Our puppy – Shado – has formed a strong alliance with both a four month-old husky and a five month-old Shiba (all girls). This trio of cuties earns the collective coos and coddles from other park-goers, but also sets up a fierce defense against the larger dogs. In their puppy pack they take on the mighty giants, and as a result, puppy owners mingle with ‘adult dog’ owners.
And so my girlfriend and I make our way through the humans and the canines – us, an interracial couple with an “interracial pup,” mingling with a DeathMetal fan and his Bernese Mountain Dog, a slightly older lesbian couple and their golden retrievers, a spunky young woman and her rugby-ball fetching Jack Russell terrier (hilarious), a middle-aged stockbroker and his obese corgi, and an endless array of other people and dog breeds.
We talk and they bark, we laugh and they yelp, and we all drive home tired and content, our dogs grinning sheepishly through panting breaths.
Ken and I are now Facebook friends, and since he moved to southern California for his job at NASA a few years ago, I look forward to the day our dog can have a play date with his dog.
And when I’m finally ready to tie-the-knot I think I’ll invite Ken to my own bachelor party, and perhaps one or two of Shado’s other four-legged friends’ owners as well.
I’m still looking for one who can beat “Martian Robot Driver” in terms of coolness though.