Doga = NOga

this is not the face of a canine yogi

this is not the face of a canine yogi

 

This afternoon, I took Karmann to a local fall-themed dog event. It included a session of “doga,” which is, of course, dog yoga. It’s the reason we went. In addition to whatever the hell a dog yoga class could be, it promised dog massage, which I thought would be helpful for Karmann’s arthritis.

Allow me, then, to explain it for you.

Doga = gathering 20-30 mostly-oblivious dog stewards into a room, and then making them do things that further direct their attention away from their dogs, in the name of presence and dog-bonding. There is barking.

In other words, doga is a horrible idea.

Since I had no idea what to expect, I wore, well, yoga pants. I realized that it was DOGa, however I also felt reasonably assured that I was not going to look at Karmann, be all, “Yo, puppy, Trikonasana.” and watch in amazement as she executed a perfect Triangle Pose. Whatever the hell doga would be, I figured, would require some flexibility and dog manipulation on my part, and I therefore did not wear low-rise superskinnies with my knee high motorcycle boots.

Lesson 1: not everybody is logical.

I walked into a room including around five pup-moms in skinny jeans and boots, one of whom immediately said, because I am invisible and/or presumed deaf, “It’s dog yoga, I didn’t think *I* would be doing yoga. What’s with the people in yoga pants?” To which another superskinny warrior responded, “People wear those things EVERYWHERE. To work, even.”

Lesson 2: I am absolutely right in my assumption that all people are asshats until they prove otherwise. Yoga notwithstanding.

Prior to doga, I spent an hour and a half walking Karmie around, trying to blow off some steam and prepare her for the mindlfullness that would surely be required of a canine yogi. And it worked, more or less. Until all the other people started coming in with their dogs, barking and freaking the hell out and dressed like tacos and  batman princesses because there was a costume contest immediately preceding over at the tent area (which had six swag tents, two of which were booze samples–yay puppies!) In other words, it was pretty much like every other dog-specific novelty gathering that counts for the one time each year that people venture off their home turf with their dogs and without their brains.

Lesson 3: refer to lesson 2.

Finally, yoga starts and I am THRILLED because what, even, is doga?!?? We are told that we are going to learn to be mindful WITH our dogs, which seems weird, and proceed to do a basic breathing exercise while 25 or so dogs on leashes vibrate around the nuclei of our persons, trying to interact with someone, ANYONE. Human, dog, they don’t care, they do not know what is happening and all the people have their eyes closed, hyperventilating.

Lesson 4: Doga confuses actual dogs.

And then we start a circular walking meditation, for which some kindly people very thoughtfully put out water bowls. Which means that our aware, present, relaxing, centering circumambulation is punctuated by four dog pile ups, puppies lunging for water, and bowl-guarding snit fits. Breathe in to the count of four left foot strikes, hold it for two, breathe out for the PLEASE STOP LETTING YOUR DOG SNAP AT THAT AGING BEAGLE WHO WOULD JUST LIKE WATER.

Lesson 5: Doga is not relaxing. For anyone.

After the circumambulation-cum-water fights, we are told to pull out our treats to begin working on gaze with our dogs.

Treats?

I was not told to bring treats. In fact, I very specifically do not bring treats to group dog events because I don’t want to start a brawl by whipping out liver jerky in a room full of stressed, over-stimulated, poorly-minded strangedogs. We are treatless. Poor Karmann. This is really not working out for her at all.

The exercise we’re doing, however, is one that Karmie owns like the fuzzbutt little bawss she is: eye contact and following. She knows this as “watch,” so we rock it out sans treats, substituting pets and nose kisses for liver. After a couple minutes, she has come back to earth. Whew.

Which is when we are told to stand on our leashes, our feet hip width apart.

Ok. Um. Three problems:

1. When I take Karmann into densely populated urban areas, I use a 4 foot leash. That’s so I don’t have 3 feet of looping leash flopping against my leg while I leave a foot or so free to guide her through people/stupid kids/stupid parents/other dogs/old people.

2. “hip-width” is about two feet, give or take, and my dog is not a dachshund. Her neck is not at floor level when she is standing. So minus 2 feet to keep Karm comfey, I’m left with 2 feet of “ground leash” on which to spread my feet apart, which puts one foot in the loop, rather awkwardly. From the looks of it, several other pet parents were encountering a similar issue, because this instruction led to a lot of dogs with their heads pulled down to the floor while they fought to continue standing.

3. I am specifically uncomfortable in a room full of stressed, over-stimulated dogs whose heads are being forcibly pulled toward the ground while also not under any sort of manual control by their people. Because standing on your leash gives you pretty much none controls in that situation. One slip of your foot, or a dog that REALLY wants to meet his neighbor, like, NOW, and said dog is born free and flying out the door. Or into the face of someone else’s dog who does not wish to have a dog in their face.

I realize some may think I’m over-thinking this. Maybe I am. But taking care of Cal has made me much more sensitive to the stress levels of dogs, as well as the  bullshit people put their dogs through in the name of “fun.” This was not fun. I was not having fun, Karmann was not having fun, most of the other dogs in that room were not having fun, and all the not-fun we were having made it pretty clear to me that it was not worth the risk of something stupid happening. So I grabbed our bag and we split.

We had about a 3/4 mile walk to the car and, within maybe two minutes of leaving that room, Karmann relaxed, flopped her ears back, and happily sniffed her way back to the parking lot.

THAT was fun.

Lesson 7: My doggie is awesome (pre-existing knowledge.)

 

Quality Time With the Beagle

Wilderness Beagle

Wilderness Beagle

I am an architectural historian. 

I can finally say that without wincing just a little, because in addition to seven years of school, more loans than I care to think about, and a dogged determination, I finally have my first freelance project documenting non-contributing structures at a National Historic Site waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay out in the country. Until today, I had been there exactly one time, during which visit I made three critical observations. 1) it is remote; 2) it is very large; 3) it is practically empty. From these observations, a formula was created: 

(remote wilderness + empty estate (huge land area))^2 = (City Girl freaked the hell out)^1,000,000 

I don’t even know if that’s a real equation. I’m an architectural historian.

Suffice to say that this urban explorer does not feel particularly safe in large swaths of empty wilderness. And I mean, we’re talking hundreds of acres. To reach the furthest flung structure, my round trip is a couple miles of trail. To hit all the structures we’re approaching six-ish miles, during which time I may not see another soul. So I’ve been kind of terrified of getting started, on account I’m fairly certain I’ll either be eaten by a bear, or accidentally shot by a hillbilly. In the very least, I had already confirmed that a lot of nature–bugs most especially–was going to touch me. 

As it happens, however, I came up with solutions to these problems. For the bugs, I purchased a DEET product so strong it warns me not to apply it to skin or synthetic fabrics. For the risk of nature contact, I wear pants, my Doc Martins, as much shirt as I can handle without incurring heat stroke, and a hat. 

And for the scary carnivores and hillbillies, it turns out that anti-social, shrieky beagle-ish I have comes in handy. 

So, armed with pesticides, a lot of clothing, and Calvin, I set off to get some work done in the desolate rolling hills of southwestern PA. 

But Fate, she is a cruel mistress. 

As soon as we turned into the parking lot, I realized I was being bitch slapped by Fortuna. There were, like, ten cars in the lot. Which is a metric fuckton of cars for a place that is literally twenty miles from nowhere. And all of the cars were full of people with dogs and babies. Babies placed into absolutely enormous and very threatening (to a beagle) strollers. Strollers the size of Hummers, as far as the eye could see, being pulled by dogs. I’m sure that was Cal’s first impression of the place. 

Yesterday, somebody dribbled liquishit around the bedroom while the humans were gone. We didn’t know which puppy. Today, I discovered it was Calvin. Not thirty seconds after popping out of the car and into a post-apocalyptic world where dogs and babies conspire to end us all by mowing us down with their twelve ton prams, Cal had several bouts of explosive diarrhea. 

Where I had expected peaceful desolation and an exhausting pupwalk, I was now faced with congestion and a digestively unsound, and increasingly anxious, wee hound. 

For the record, given all the ridiculous disasters around which I routinely tap dance in a performance I call “My Life,” I would eventually like for something to go as planned. I don’t want to be a hose beast but I really, really feel like I have it coming to me. 

Cal’s intestinal disturbance immediately removed the most distant structures from the realm of possibility, as I had no intention of marching him around in the heat with belly troubles. So that meant we had to stick close to the main structure which, of course, is where all the people and their giant, ravenous babies and hellhound-drawn carriages were. We knocked out an entry gate just before a stroller threatened, and then made our way to an old road trace before being chased into the woods, twice, by hikers with dogs. We set out to pick up a grave site, but were cut off by a meandering couple and a hoard of shrieking children who, I’m made fairly certain by their behavior, are parent-less and living, Lord of the Flies-style, on the property. 

All things being equal, Calvin really did pretty well. There was some barking, but no real screaming. And toward the end of our mostly futile afternoon, he seemed pretty well desensitized to ordinary, ambulating people and ceased expressing opinions about them altogether. 

I called it a day and we drove off the get fuel. Inocuous, no?

No. Because WHY ARE ALL THE GAS STATIONS IN RURAL ALMOST WEST VIRGINIA FULL SERVICE?????

I pulled up to a pump, was shutting down and locating my wallet when Cal suddenly lost his shit. I didn’t attempt to calm him down because, frankly, a stranger walking up to my car and fiddling with my gas cap is not something I really want him to be retiring about. I stared in horror, for a moment, before I thought to ask if all the pumps were full service. Gas guy confirmed and I said, over beagle-ish shrieks, that I’d just hit the next station. He laughed and carried on and said it didn’t matter because it was all the same price. 

Friend. Dear friend. Stretch the limits of your imagination and try to consider that cost is not my greatest immediate concern, here. I’m losing six decibels of hearing per second and I don’t have that much to spare NOW STOP TOUCHING MY GAS CAP AND LET ME LEAVE. 

I had to pass three more service stations before I found one that would let me pump my own fuel. And in that time, my GPS lady, apparently uncharitably disposed toward my frequent redirects to check gas stations, decided that I had some geographical comeuppance due in the form of patently refusing to take me to an interstate. So despite 1.5 uneventful rounds trips to the site, I was paraded all through the countryside to the tune of an additional forty-five minutes on the road, and threatened with a toll road (what even is cash?) before I finally overrode her with Google Maps on my phone. 

From beginning to end, Cal pup and I had five gloriously dysfunctional hours of adventure today, and the little guy is now sacked out at my feet. So hard to be Calvin, even on Small Hound Road Trip days.