In February we took our pup Misty to Pawdi Gras, an annual Humane Society fund raiser in Apalachicola Florida. We had attended the event with Fred and Trusty two years before. The two dogs had a blast, especially Trusty who could never resist an opportunity to be admired and to pose for pictures. I figured this might be fun for Misty and since she was eleven months old, also great opportunity to socialize and train her. She did indeed have a blast.
Many merchants, and other doggy type businesses put up kiosks in the park area and they sell all the things dog related. We are all there for the dogs so there is little to no evidence of the political divide. I did see one pit bull dressed up as President Trump and everyone, Republican and Democrat, laughed at that. In addition to doggy things, the event is also attended by various other wildlife and animal rescue group. A band was hired to play Mardi Gras appropriate tunes. And of course there was a lot of southern food, most of it deep fried. The crowning moment was the arrival of the King and Queen, two dogs, the longest term residents in the shelter, seeking homes.
The event consists of everyone gathering in the town’s central park location. For $5 you can buy a wrist band that entitles you to walk your dog in the parade. For $25 you can ride the route in your golf cart. In addition assorted city officials and other dignitaries attend in floats and open cars. Everyone else lines the streets and cheers on the dogs. At the appointed time all the parade people gather in one location and everyone introduces themselves and admires everyone else dogs. We walk the six block or so of the parade route and then we hang about and chat and visit the kiosks. At least one restaurant has a dog friendly back porch so our plan was to retire there for a bite after the big event. We were delighted this year because our Florida host, Jack Rudloe of Gulf Specimen Marine Lab was in attendance with his special lady friend Jane Brandt and their two rescued part pit bulls, the ubiquitous dog of the south. We also had our guest scientist from Italy, Luiga Santella, with us to experience this insane American event.
Misty was totally and absolutely enthralled by the whole thing. She had never seen so many assorted dogs in one place. No matter where she turned there were doggy noses and butts to sniff. Most of them were older well behaved dogs and she took her cue from them and sat prettily when told and otherwise stayed near me. She often looked up at me for reassurance this insanity was okay. We dressed her up in a feather boa and she didn’t mind that at all. She was really excited and occasionally trembled but she was having such a good time I decided it was a positive puppy stress. When the time came to walk the parade route she joined right in. She didn’t seem to quite know what to do since half of the people were walking and half were sitting by the side cheering. She concentrated on staying near me although she couldn’t resist running up to a few cheering children sitting the curb to bestow kisses. Since this is a doggy event, all the children present were doggy savy and they accepted her exuberant puppy kisses with delight and understanding.
Halfway through the walk Misty abruptly left the parade and lay down beside a nearby tire. I felt horrible. She was overwhelmed by Pawdi Gras and her poor puppy brain had apparently imploded. I knelt beside her and reassured her and then decided I would take her away. Kind strangers offered her a drink of water which she gratefully slurped up and a puppy treat appeared out of nowhere which she gulped down. When I got up to go and head away from the crowd she resisted and strained to get into her place in the parade. I let her guide me back into the commotion and she was fine with it, tail wagging, eyes bright, a totally happy engaged dog. She had just needed a break from the excitement. I was very proud of her and how she handled the break.
After the parade we dispersed and found Jack and Jane and Misty had a joyous greeting with her best buddy, Jack’s Rita and then we wandered off to eat. Misty was mostly well behaved in the restaurant porch where we had a bite to eat. She was tired and stayed quietly at my feet with only a few reminders.
We got turned around on the trip back to the truck and we couldn’t find it. I gave Misty the command “Truck! Truck!” which means run to the truck and wait there to jump in. Misty had learned that imitating Fred. Misty knew exactly where the truck was and she pulled the right way and we followed and lo and behold there was the truck. She didn’t take the most direct route, but she instead followed the route we had taken on leaving the truck so I assume she used our scent trail from earlier to back track to the truck. We were again very proud of our clever smart girl. We loaded up and headed home. Misty fell asleep immediately. She slept deeply and on return home she voluntarily went straight to her bed and, after a long drink and a snack, she slept without a peep until morning. She twitched a lot as her sleeping puppy brain absorbed that intense happy day. Hopefully, God willing and the creek don’t rise, as they say in the south, we can do Pawdi Gras again next year.