Celebrating summer with a little SUP pup moment.Read More
Left and right. Red and blue. Us and them... the baggage of humans.
Dogs don’t do politics. That’s what we love most about them.
They don't take sides - nor do they care about all that human psycho babble.
They do care about whose in charge.
They don’t debate. Or criticize.
They're too busy chasing life, chasing tails, romping trails. Getting blow dried on the road trip of life.
They aren’t hung up on news or Twitter, reading the latest titillating story about a porn star and a US President.
They love you unconditionally, even when you don't deserve it.
They may be smarter than humans, despite what scientists say. They're way more intuitive.
You think you can hide your feelings, but they just know. And love you anyway.
They don’t press your buttons. They stand by you until you get outside yourself. For some of us, that could take a lifetime.
Dogs don’t do Twitter. Well, maybe they do. This is dog Twitter:
“soft warm body pressed up against yours – no words necessary.”
You think you can stay away long hours on trips out of town when the dog sitter takes over. You think they won’t notice. They reward you with a bounce up and down welcome home ceremony. And the top-secret mini poo pile, just this side of the dog door.
I went from four dogs to two. One is a fake dog.
Tia the kitty would be really catty on Twitter. But she’s dropping the cat act and turning into a dog.
These days, the cat and the dog are ascending breed restrictions. Ignoring their owner’s manuals, and politics, or lack thereof. They are fast becoming (admittedly tentatively, perhaps warily) pack partners.
They are the last two remaining dog pack members after a rough year, losing two aging bassets of the family.
The cat has arisen to the role of Alpha. Or co-alpha.
She is first to take possession, within 30 seconds of me sitting or lying down. She always beats the doxie to my lap. She does it effortlessly. Strategically.
At best now, Doodle snuggles up alongside, his butt up against her chest. His curly cue tail spirally wrapping around my leg. Or carefully nosing up near the stiletto nails of Tia. Some random body part of dog splayed over my leg. Or inching closer, under covers, as if the cat won’t notice.
Sometimes she rubs her head against his… like she really loves him… but none of us totally trusts that. Sometimes I wonder if that head rub isn’t some subtle game of kitty bumper car. She is a politician.
Doodle has that wild-eyed look like, please don’t throw a sucker punch at me. But he persists. And that has, in turn, softened the cat.
She snuggles up under covers as quickly as Doodle does. Maybe even with him.
She has descended from cat throne to dog behavior. Fuzzy lovingness.
She has evolved into a dog.
Just when I was looking for a lap basset online at the shelter, the lap basset appeared.
I would say there’s a war going on for my attention but it’s more like detente. Fragile, hesitant teamwork. Like long-warring parties coming together to pass some really important legislation, creating social change. Like banning assault rifles or ending the war on immigration. Or some other Hatfield and McCoy thing that’s gone on for years.
People stuck in the middle. Two sides. No one winning.
Here, the two “dogs” aren’t entirely trusting each other, but are actually trying to work together - and meet in the middle.
Sharing goals. Getting more love. Figuring out that working together, they both get what they really want – they just don’t exclude the other partner. They may make some critter concessions, but on the grand scale, nothing worth quibbling over.
Maybe this is a long, ugly custody battle over me, that just took a positive turn?
The cat, unlike the dog, is a much more political animal.
She’s into power and isn’t always soft and fuzzy – or is, but usually with a purpose. She likes the Alpha role. She likes being on top. Pole position. Lap cat. But she wasn’t always in charge.
The dog just wants to be there. Be lap dog. He’s into power, but in an effusive, gimme some luvin' hippy-yippee kinda way.
Doodle bumbles in as if to take over the lap and the house and the pack. Guess what? He thought he was Alpha too. There’s an absence of clear power without someone in charge.
It’s the two party system. Dog vs. Cat. Balance of power.
Neither has veto power. But they both flex themselves periodically, when it’s really important.
I feel like I am the prize. At the same time, a voter stuck between sides. Like an average everyday citizen that two parties are fighting for. Two parents fighting over a kid.
And when the dog and cat drop their breed restrictions and put down their owner's manuals, they blend into one. One species. Curled up, yin and yang. Spooning, with me underneath. Me, in between. Everyone wins. No one’s in charge. Just the three of us as one.
Being in charge is so over rated. There’s nothing we wouldn’t do for each other. And funny thing - this wasn't possible, not for this cat and this dog, with a full pack of dogs in the house.
Elvis, my dearly departed Alpha Basset, Big Man on Campus, was always in charge.
He loved the cat and together, they were one. They snuggled together - but not over me. They were total bff’s. No war for top dog between them. Everyone got along.
Now that Elvis is gone, and his twin basset brother too, the little pain-in-the-butt Dennis the Menace doxie, my Doodle, wanted so badly to lead our pack. To assume Alpha. One and only dog of the family. But he hasn’t earned the cred that Elvis had.
Elvis was king, without even trying.
Dude was the same age and might have challenged Elvis for top dog. Instead, he went blind. And became a lap basset. He gave up on Alpha long ago. We miss him with all of our hearts, but he never made it to top dog. He easily could have.
He was top dog years ago, back when he still had eyes. He won awards in surf dog contests. He competed - and won - against other dogs, but never his own pack.
Dude was bff’s with Elvis. Everyone was. Alpha Elvis wasn’t kingly. He was a love buddy.
Now that the sweet and strong and loving basset brothers are surfing the heavens, we’re down to two “dogs” and those two have expanded to fill the void. The calico and the doxie.
The 50% smaller pack allows the two remaining dogs to grow into themselves. They’ve expanded into me. And just maybe, they've expanded into each other. Even though they’d never admit it.
Number two and number three try harder. Now together, they share #1.
They seem to be co-Alphas.
Parents. Partners. The third, neutral party.
It’s a whole new era in our home in the absence of basset hounds.
The two remaining dogs may not be tri-colored low rider bassets, with silly-sad faces. Stand-up comedians with basset-hound-hearts-on-sleeves (which we all terribly miss.) But the remaining animals are surprisingly able to evolve.
I wonder if I can. If we can – the human species?
Based on a true story by Howdy the surf basset with dog mom Barb Ayers
Excerpt from the secret Surf Dog Diaries book in progress
Recap from part 1:
Warm sand. Bare feet. Bare paws. Bare back. A sea of umbrellas and beach chairs, towels and tattoos. I smell a warm meatball sandwich by a dude in the sand.
Dogs dart around in circles, this way and that - chasing freedom and Frisbees and dog butts and fuzzy yellow-green balls.
Blue skies and ocean smelling breeze and all those brilliant rays of light and life. A smile grows wide from deep inside.
I'm a surf dog. Surf basset Howdy Doody, more specifically. I’m rolling up on all fours at my home turf, Dog Beach, in OB - Ocean Beach, San Diego. The first leash-free beach in the US.
I’m thinking, I’m going for it.
We wade into the ocean, my mom and I. We jump on a board and head out, toward the magic and the mystery of the surf break.
I’m standing up, hanging twenty toes on the nose of the surfboard, all basset hound manliness in front. A surf dog hood ornament.
Mom’s in back, paddling out. She’s a person, not nearly as efficient as us surf dogs. She paddles lying down, with hands, not paws. Giggling and making all those funny sounds. Words so cute, but I’ve no idea what she’s talking about.
Bright sun warms your back. Dog hairs swirl around, weightless, like dancing kelp as we go deeper.
I'm thinking.... Here she comes - a big, gnarly wave, barreling right at you.
And whoa- next thing you know, we’re up, and riding.
Surfing the ups and downs of life.
Looking up, looking over – I’m thinking…
Wooo HOOOOO! Surf dog Howdy Doody here! The Big Kahuna.
And right over there, down the wave, were two of my very best buds – a bulldog and a golden retriever. Both standing up with me, at the very same time, at the very same beach on their very own boards. And it was magic. There's no greater gift in life than sharing this moment with friends.
I’d never had real friends before, never really belonged.
Rescue dogs roll that way.
It was an incredibly long ride – ocean curls just kept coming up behind and chasing me, changing me. Waves pushing a little bit left, up toward where the San Diego River empties into the ocean, and the sea wall between OB and Mission Beach.
Then the surf changed and pushed back to the right – toward the OB pier. Ocean was playin’ with me. Teasing and testing me. Could I stay on when she tried to throw me off? I’d been thrown off before so many times. Mostly on land, with humans.
And with a light step, that wasn’t normally my way, and that basset hound dogged determination, we’d made it to this place and the wave was there – the test – and I rode it with everything I had. Everything I’d learned. From the rescue dog ride of life.
And Mom had been there, helping, every step of the way. Together, we were one.
Normally when Howdy ran away, his mom frantically followed, trying to bring him back home.
But this time, she’d let him go – in a good way.
Into the wave, on his own, riding the wave like one of the big boyz.
She’d paddled him out through the break, picked out the wave, paddled him into it, then slipped off behind and gave the board a huge shove at the critical moment, to launch him into the curl.
She got him his wave, his moment - and then she knew enough to let him go it alone. How’d she know that?
Seemed like hours and days passed - surfing suspended all time, all rational thought and all other feelings. That one-with-nature moment lasted forever.
That same wave that threatened to drown you, gave you pride and hope and peace and joy - the thrill of a lifetime – all, in under a minute.
It makes you want to race right back out after wave #1, for one more who-knows-what’s-gonna-happen-next Dog Beach ride of life.
It’s been said that the average surf ride is about ten seconds, but this ride lasted way longer.
The board with the dog took its time heading in – heading home.
All the way from outside the surf zone, back through breaking waves toward the beach, through indigo, to blue water and white water, to ankle biters, to bubbles, to shore. The fin of the board dragged up in sand. Howdy stepped off in ankle deep water.
Top dog style.
He smiled a big, toothy grin. Maybe it was there the whole time, for the whole ride. Who knows.
He felt like a king. King of the beach.
And together as one breed, dog and man - surf dogs all - we say or howl, bark
Surf is UP!
Howdy could see their mouths hanging open on shore - the sense that something amazing had happened.
He felt like, for once in his life, he got noticed. He was a throwaway dog in a former life. Many lifetimes ago.
They were clapping, laughing, running towards him.
And the surf dog shook it all off – the time and the tides and cold water and heavy thoughts he used to drag around - with a full-body side-swiper back-n-forth salt- water-in-flight slow-motion of the ocean notion.
He trotted off down the beach.
Dog Beach - his home beach. Cross roads of all breeds and all creeds. Dogs and their people and surfers and seniors and families with kids and lawn chairs and floating umbrellas and Frisbees and lots of dog-butt sniffing, too. Tattoo viewing. Yes, he knew what tats were, even though a dog shouldn’t.
His new mom finally swam in from the ocean, walking back up the beach to join him. She was panting, exhausted, dog-tired. He’d surfed; she’d swam. She’d paddled the two of them together out past the break, then hung back when he took off on board.
Now she was laughing and running toward him. She scooped him up and held him upside down, on his back, cradling him in her arms like a tiny puppy. Even though he was a big, manly surf dog, he didn’t try to wriggle out, or break free. Like old Howdy would have.
Because this was their most secret, sacred moment - her giving him the gift and him, stepping up. Believing.
He was big and small, young and old, man and dog, crazy and chillin,’ happy-sad, all at the same time.
He'd never needed anyone in his whole life before that moment.
He just let her coo and kiss him.
He totally deserved it!
Right then and there - he was King of Dog Beach.
And then hoards of people came running up, laughing and chatting and cheering them on.
“Whoa- what a good dog!”
"How’d he learn to do that?"
"How long did it take to teach him?"
"His wetsuit says Howdy – is that his name?"
His dog friends that rode the same wave he did, were just swimming in. Sopping wet dogs. Dragging, drowny dogs. They’d fallen off that beast of a wave. The one he rode all the way in.
Big Rich, the overweight boxer with a big, loud bark and this whole. I’m the Big Man body language. Even though he wasn't.
And Hookipa, the hot-babe golden retriever with a white, bright smile. And a big fancy pedigree. Born and bred for water, not like land-hunting low-rider basset hounds.
Not like him – not like Howdy.
He was so not your typical water dog.
With a low-man physique – short basset hound legs.
A long-board basset hound back.
And extra-wide UGG-boot feet. Toes splayed out in the sand. On a surfboard.
Grip it and rip it.
So maybe basset hounds were really bred for surfing after all – not just for hunting.
Maybe the whole low-rider-surf-dog-custom-basset-hound-specialty- package wasn’t just an accident.
And somehow this dog - adopted, rejected, returned to the pound, the 3-time rescue mutt, least likely to succeed - had shown everyone else, all water dogs and would-be surfers and gnarly surf dudes and beach breeds, how to get ‘er done. How surf dogs roll.
A stray, a mongrel, a runaway, an “incorrigible pet,” according to those judgey people he used to know.
A basset, a born “sinker" – like short boards that sink into water.
But here, now, a “floater” - a long boarder, riding with style and pizazz.
And with a whole lot of genetically engineered basset hound pride and stubbornness.
Which, when you think about it, is the most important secret to surfing waves of any kind.
He was maybe three years old, still in his first year of surfing. After riding out a couple of lifetimes already, all former failures.
Before he found Her, the surfer, Mom #3.
Third time’s a charm.
She wasn’t really #3, She was the Only One.
And he was Her One and Only.
Finally, they'd brought each other home.