UC Davis Magazine

Campus Views

The name of the game is canines, and if you don't have a dog, you're just another spectator on the outside looking in. Or a cat lover.

Dogged days

Picnic Day is a big dog day. I know the festival has become better known for the cow with a hole in its side, but let's face it--if you've been there you know you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a boxer or poodle or pit bull. It seems that every event--whether it's a race, show or exhibition--is being held by, for or on behalf of dogs. The name of the game is canines, and if you don't have a dog, you're just another spectator on the outside looking in. Or a cat lover.

I walked around the campus this year feeling guilty because I was walking just myself. Around me were throngs of insanely happy people playing with and talking to their dogs, and there I was, petless. The pressure was intense, and I panicked. I bought a leash just to fit in (I figured looking like an irresponsible owner was better than not being an owner at all).

And even though I'm not exactly a "dog guy," the day was educational. I learned about breeds and weights and ages. I found out how to check for tapeworm and what rabies looks like (self-exams save lives, you know).

I learned that dachshunds don't so much race as slide in a straight line, a bundle of controlled frenzy hell-bent for a stuffed cat on a string. They can't really want to catch the cat--what are they going to do, nibble it to death? Dachshunds are wusses--more than likely they're just running to get the whole thing over with, more embarrassed to be seen exercising in public than interested in competition.

Dog-mania pervades Picnic Day to the point that all the other animals get lost in the shuffle. There's no line for the llamas, let me tell you, and while, yes, the fistulated cow draws big crowds, rarely do people come away with warm and positive feelings.

"Aww, look Donald, our little Susie has that cow's lunch all over her party dress. Just precious.... Susie, honey? Where's your watch?"

But I must admit, cynical as I was, I got sucked into the Frisbee Dog Competition. Maybe the sun came out about that time, or my coffee kicked in. Or perhaps my canine resistance had just been worn away. Whatever it was, I found myself cheering and whistling for collies and retrievers. I stood and clapped for the mutts (can't resist the underdog). The scene was perfect--green grass, vocal fans, ubiquitous PA announcer--it was like being at a baseball game, except the athletes were friendly and hadn't signed shoe deals.

And after the winner was crowned and I was walking home with my leash, I got to thinking that maybe a dog wouldn't be such a bad idea. There's a lot of advantages. I could train him. Teach him to sit and fetch. And then, when he was obedient and loving . . . we could go looking for dachshunds.

And take their lunch money.

-- Steve McFeely, M.A. '96

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