There’s nothing like coming home to a dog. Whether you’ve been gone six hours or six weeks, their response is as though they believed they’d never see you again, and, with the simple act of walking through the door, you’ve single-handedly answered their most dire prayer. Yes, dogs rock, and in Santa Barbara, we show our appreciation in much the same way we show our appreciation for anything: We have a parade.
I love my dog as fiercely as any dog owner loves her own best friend, but Rosie is decidedly special. Which is to say, when I set off to the annual Big Dog Parade and Canine Festival, I did it without her. If there was ever a dog crying out for a whispering, Rose is she. But my desire to avoid an incident overrode the fact that the alpha of all canine correctors, Cesar Millan, would be there. Safety first.
I arrived at Chase Palm Park before the first of the floats and staked out a spot. Sure enough, along came the bus that carried the man, the myth, the whisperer. As if in a dream, I heard my name from atop the float. Could it be? Could he know? No, it was an old friend of mine and her puffball, Nube, who’d somehow scored the coveted spot alongside Millan. They disembarked, and while The Whisperer was ferreted away, my friend headed straight for me.
“He said, ‘If you have any friends with problem dogs, call me!'” she said. Looking at me, she added, “So I was like, ‘Actually :'” Rosie’s reputation precedes her. Although, if memory serves, upon their first encounter, Rose politely allowed Nube to hump her leg, her face, her back :
“Nube growled at Cesar twice,” she eventually confessed. God love a fellow puppy-school flunkey.
Meanwhile, although the pooches were all happily pooped after making their way from De la Guerra to the beach, they must have spent the bulk of the morning convinced they were on acid, or that they’d landed in an alternate universe, one entitled, “If Dogs Ruled.” When else is a dog surrounded by so many other pooches? In costume? With their people in matching duds? There was a psychedelic Wizard of Oz-inspired crew, with the hairiest Dorothy I’ve ever seen. There were fairies and bikers, a Great Dane dressed up like a Budweiser Clydesdale, treats, kiddy pools, even dog beer. (Seriously.)
After several laps’ worth of pup-peeping, I decided to try and steal a moment with Cesar. (Or maybe, if the opportunity presented itself, to kidnap him.) But the scrum surrounding the VIW area was intense. Women screamed, “I love you!” while he mugged for photo after photo with puppy after puppy. All the while, his own dogs milled about, mellow, as though nothing was amiss.
By afternoon, I was missing my own crazy dog. Riding up my street, I heard the familiar sound of her barking. Then she greeted me, like she hadn’t seen me in weeks. There’s no place like home.