A Very Shaggy Dog Story


I was out for a walk with a friend and her dog

The afternoon was so beautiful it was like walking through a fine, landscape painting. We made time to go through the checklist of all things dog—throw the ball, wade in the creek, shake. Then it’s our turn. We continue on to the boardwalk on the Bay and coffee. We have a long stretch of masters/mistresses carrying the eponymous poop bag. Thank you for picking up after your dog.dog poop

And then, there is the inevitable dog version of “getting to know you” and the required sniffing of the butts, etc.

We bi-peds stand around making conversation; meanwhile glancing down more than once at what is happening below our knees. It’s like an accident—shouldn’t look, can’t help it. There were so many dogs out yesterday doing their thing a childhood memory of my father came floating in after many years.

dog buttsMy First Mutt

When I was in third grade, we got our first series of mutts, Nellie by name, so you can see she wasn’t a classic anything. Dogs in our neighborhood were never on leashes, but I was afraid Nellie might run off. I looped my jump rope through her collar and off we went. I’d never walked a dog before and every nose-to-nose encounter we had with other dogs left me red-faced mortified.

little gir and dog

At dinner that night I asked my father why dogs did this. I was a bundle of curiosity about why things were as they were and this dog business wouldn’t wait. I was expecting something more science based since he was a lawyer.

The Party at the Castle

“Well,” he said, “when God put dogs on earth” . . . okay, I knew that something was up since he never talked like this . . . “there was a grand gala at the castle and all of the dogs were invited. Since it was a very formal occasion, the dogs were asked to temporarily remove their bare butts and put them on one of the hooks in the great hall.

“Because they didn’t have electricity in those days, the castle ballroom was illuminated with thousands of candles. With all of the dogs dancing on their hind legs, thousands of tales wagging, things got out of hand, candles were knocked over, a fire started, and soon it turned into a terrifying blaze. The castle had to be evacuated immediately and so all of the dogs ran out, grabbing any butt they could. And that’s why. . .”

One More Time

Out for a walk today with my daughter, we witness the usual butt business and I am reminded again of this story. I take time, giving her the full Monty of detail that my father gave me. We both laugh so hard we almost spill our to-go coffees. Her grandfather, my dad—locker-room raconteur and staid intellectual rolled up into the same confusing person. I will never put all of the puzzle pieces of you together, Dad. Butt-I still laugh at his tale.

Since I never got an answer as a child and my Dad is deceased, I asked Google: Why do dogs sniff butts? There are a lot of inquiring minds out there wanting to know—over 52,000 hits on the topic. My favorite answer is this one from the “Dr. Doolittle” movie given to a young boy—“it’s their version of a handshake.”

smiling dog.jpg

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