Camping, Swimming or Dogs -- Part III

Before moving on to dogs, just in case anyone doubted the previous post about swimming, check out this link (pay special attention to the tips at the bottom of the article!). Happy swimming, everyone!

Now, this next subject is perhaps the most controversial. Make fun of water and camping all you want, but don't insult Fido (or Rex, Spot, or Fifi). So, I will approach this topic gingerly (we once had a dog named Ginger, by the way, but the pun wasn't intended).

I lived in a small town for a while named Kennesaw, Georgia. They had a law in that town that every resident had to own a gun (seriously). Perhaps not surprisingly, they had one of the lowest crime rates in the nation. Not all towns in Georgia had that law, but they all shared an unwritten law: Each household in Georgia must own a dog. Or at least it seemed that way to me while I was there as a missionary for my church.

Our form of transporation was often walking or bicycling, neither of which are good options when nearly every home has at least one canine. I hadn't though much about it until I was walking one afternoon down a beautiful, tree-lined road in a small Atlanta suburb. The city bus had just dropped us off, and we headed on foot toward the home at which we had an appoitnment. A few homes before our desitnation, a large dog appeared at the end of the driveway. He was not happy to see us at all and made it known by his angry barking. Knowing I wasn't the worlds biggest dog fan, my missionary parter called out "here boy!" As soon as I heard those words, I knew we were in trouble. This dog didn't want to play, he wanted to, as a dog lover would say, protect. Attack is probably a more accurate word. He came at us full steam ahead, and my partner, athletic guy that he was, climbed on top of a car. He laughed as he continued, "Here boy...get him!".

Let me pause here to say that I am not a climber. When I was a kid I never climbed trees or fences. I try to stay away from ladders or anything else with steps. So, climbing a car, which has no steps, was not really an option for me. At the time, I didn't know what I would do for a living, but something in me must have known I was destined to be a therapist. What did I do? I talked that dog out of attacking me. I leaned against the car, heart racing, and spoke softly and kindly to him, telling him that he didn't really need to be so angry and that I was sure we could work things out rationally. I don't remember much of what happened after that, but I think it must have been like Daniel in the lion's den, becuase somehow the dog called off the attack, my partner got off the top of the car, and we were in the home a few doors down for our appointment. I still had adrenaline pumping when the family said to their son, "Go get Toby to show these boys". I didn't know who Toby was, but was not kept in suspense for long.

Toby turned out to be a dog, only he was the size of a small horse. I am not kidding, and I am sure there is a name for this breed of dog. But the top of his head and my head were at the same level. This opened up a new world for me: there are dogs the size of humans walking around! This one turned out to be pretty docile, but even if he just stepped on me by accident I would have been in trouble.

The next two years held many opportunities for daily dog interactions, which gave me plenty of opportunity to consider the many reasons I didn't want a dog around for the rest of my life:

1) Dog are all stuck in the Oral stage of Freud's states of development. Whether they like you or hate you, you are going to experience something relating to their mouth...licking, biting, drooling. It comes with the territory. I prefer a pet that keeps its mouth to itself.

2) Have you ever seen what a dog puts in its mouth? I'm not just talking about dog food, although that is pretty gross all by itself. There is a verse in the Bible that talks about a dog returning to its vomit (to eat it). And if that is not enough, they eat what comes out the other end as well. No wonder their breath smells like it does. Someone once told me a dog's mouth is cleaner than that of a baby because of the enzymes in a dog's saliva. That gives me little comfort. Even if it were clean, which I highly doubt (come on, if it were true, wouldn't they bottle up dog saliva and use it as a cleaning product? We could keep our kitchens spotless by spraying the super enzyme dog drool everywhere), what good is clean if it stinks? Now, if dog breath smelled more like fresh citrus, maybe I'd concede on this point. But when it smells like all of the stuff they eat, I'm keeping my distance.

3) Dog owners all think their pets are the kindest, most peaceful creatures ever. I've been through this little diologue exchange more than once:

Owner: "Don't worry, Jack doesn't bite"
Me: "Nice Jack" (petting him cautiously and making a mental note to find some hand sanitizer as soon as possible after leaving the home)
Jack: Bites me on the hand (or leg, or shoe, etc.)
Owner: "I'm sorry, he never has bit anyone before"

4) Can you imagine how many friends you'd make if you went up to strangers and sniffed them all over? Yet we think it is so charming when dogs do this. Well, not me. I have been sniffed too many times in places where I just wasn't comfortable. Nothing is worse than losing sleep over whether you've been violated by a dog. I will never forgive my friend, Eric, who hooked me up with "the latest" dog repellant product -- special underwear that would ward off dogs by giving off an unpleasant scent, keeping you and your private parts safe distance from Rover's nose. Well, the joke was on me. I should have had a clue when the package said "beef jerky flavor". Now I know.

Dogs get combined with the other two things I have struggles with: swimming and camping. In swimming you've got "Dog Paddle", which is hard to do without thinking of all of the above problems with dogs in general. Then you've got people who want to take their dog swimming with you. Wow! That is like taking the problems with dogs and swimming and magnifying their effects exponentially. While camping, it doesn't make sense to bring your dog along. First of all, if I have to leave my computer at home, you should have to leave your dog. Remember, we are trying to get away from regular life when we camp? Second, dogs sound too much like bears when they walk around in the middle of the night.

I feel much better now that all of this business about camping, swimming and dogs is off my chest. On the one hand, it is good to be out of the closet. On the other hand, I do not look foward to the awkward looks I know I will get the next time I see one of you on a campout, swimming activity, or the next time I am at your home politely petting your dog and pretending not to be bothered at all. The good news is I like my kids and friends and neighbors more than I dislike any of the things I've written about, so I will endure what everyone else enjoys the best I can. If these postings have not convinced the world to cancel all camping activities, eliminate swimming entirely and rid the earth of dogs, then...well, at least I tried.

Now, how does all this relate to the intent of this blog...the penguins on my shower curtain? Stay tuned...