Dog Park Couture

Old Clogs


Most people start their day with a hot shower and a cup of coffee while they contemplate world events and what to wear.

I wake up to a cold nose, heavy breathing and three pairs of eyes giving me that “well, are you going to take us out or do we get to pee on the floor today” look.

I take my rowdy hooligans to the dog park every day. That means EVERY day. First thing. The only time we don’t go to the park is if there is a blinding snow storm or driving rain. Only the post office is more reliable. But hey, they get Sundays off.

When most people think of the dog park, they think of lofting tennis balls for a delirious retriever as the sun shines and gentle zephyrs waft.

Those of us who frequent the park just after sunrise think about survival. We are half-awake and slogging through wet grass, mud, snow, ice, and yes, dog poop.

We suffer extreme changes of temperature (this morning it went from 45 to 65 degrees while I was there). We get body slammed by exuberant Labs and slimed by affectionate Mastiffs. Four-legged buddies frequently autograph our clothes with muddy paws.

We may look like walking rag bins, but we’re just being practical. I’ve got my favorite sweats that I religiously wash once a week. Their sole purpose to to take abuse at the park. In cold weather we go in for two or three pairs of socks and numerous layers. Vests are great. Hoodies are popular. For freezing weather, I have a cowl I knitted just for the park.

And all of it is worn until it’s falling apart.

The last several months, John Cunningham has been telling everyone he meets at the park about “A Shot in the Bark.” Suddenly I’m an Author and I can’t get away with being anonymous. I feel this alien responsibility to not go around looking like a bag lady.

First thing to go were the shoes. I have to say that my suede LL Bean clogs were the best $29 I’ve ever spent. I wore them daily for more than six years and since they were the designated dog park shoes, they suffered indignities only exceeded in third world jungles. Shadda was also especially fond of them, you can see this by the “love bites” on the uppers. Even after she grew out of chewing on them, I would come home to find her curled up with one. They were reliable and uncomplaining and I took them for granted.

This spring, I took a good look at them and the seams were splitting and the soles were falling apart (what do you expect from something that’s been worn more than two thousand times?)

Wednesday, I got my new shoes in the mail. I now have classic Crocs in navy (I wanted purple, but they were out. This is perhaps a good thing) They are feather light and soft and waterproof, just the thing for slogging through dewy grass at dawn. They can be hosed off.

New Crocs

The success of the Crocs had me thinking of further improvements to my dog park uniform. I have a great, lined winter vest (thank you, Paul and Angie) but my summer vest is an old khaki jacket of my dad’s with the sleeves ripped away and half the buttons chewed off (courtesy Shadda, the high-concept designer).

I started looking for vests. Photographer’s vests, fisherman’s vests, tactical vests. Turns out, some of the most utilitarian vests are concealed carry vests. John Cunningham has one he wears to the park and he highly recommends it (along with the appropriate firearms).

I have settled on the Uncle Milty Travel Vest, which has 16 (or is it 17?) pockets. Perfect for keeping my cell phone, Kindle, wallet, the day’s crossword puzzle, and a supply of poo bags. Leaving me with another 11 pockets to confuse myself with.

My vest is due in next week. I can’t wait.