Dogpark Discourse 101: Conversation Starters
Let's face it, modern dog owners are just as guilty as first-time parents when it comes to rambling on and on about their "kids." And while a good poop horror story makes for conversational common ground at any canine-centric soiree, why not show your range? The following cocktail party cheat-sheet highlights dogs that have made a significant impact on our common culture. A few minutes studying this list and you'll soon prove that it's possible to impress even the finest pedigreed pooch (and his/her sexy owner) with your best trick: speak!
Move over Mona Lisa...
Snoop Dog in the house, er, the museum, rather. In 2002, the Charles M. Schulz Museum, affectionately referred to as "Snoopy's Home," opened in Santa Rosa, California, in honour of the legendary cartoonist. The museum features a massive wooden sculpture depicting Snoopy's evolving personas from Schulz's childhood dog, Spike, to today's pot-bellied Beagle, a labyrinth in the shape of Snoopy's head, and most recently, an exclusive showing of Peanuts-inspired fashions from top designers including Isaac Mizrahi and Betsey Johnson. www.schulzmuseum.org
Why the Germans Really Lost the War
Hailed as "the most decorated war dog of World War I," Sergeant Stubby was a Bull Terrier of sorts discovered in 1917 on the Yale campus by John Robert Conroy. After traveling to France as a stowaway aboard the USS Minnesota, Stubbs spent 18 months warning fellow soldiers of gas attacks and incoming artillery shells, biting German butt (literally), and "dropping bombs" on enemy territory (sorry, couldn't resist). As for his personal fashion sense, Stubby looked best in his chamois coat decorated with war medals made by the thankful women in the French town of Chateau-Thierry.
Calling All Sports Fans
For over a century, the most recognizable face on Yale's campus has been the most slobbery one: that of Handsome Dan, the Bulldog believed to be the first ever live mascot. To date, fourteen handsome look-alikes have followed in the original's footsteps to traverse the football field. Over the years, successive Dans have endured multiple kidnappings and a near-drowning, initiated assaults on opposing Ivy League mascots, graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, and summered at Martha's Vineyard. 1975 even saw Dan XII make a political statement as the first and only female to carry the torch, commemorating Yale's 1969 decision to accept women.
Tales from Wales
Long ago, King John of England (aka bad dude from Robin Hood) hooked up his friend Prince Llywelyn of Gwynedd with a great hunting dog named Gelert. Upon returning home one day, Llywelyn and his princess were greeted in front of their lodge by Gelert, soaked in blood, his tail wagging. Inside, Llywelyn found his infant son's cradle overturned, no baby in sight. Llywelyn did the math, drew his sword, and delivered a fatal blow. As Gelert lay dying, Llywelyn suddenly heard the cries of his infant son. He found him under the crib-lying next to the bloody body of a wolf. It's said that Llywelyn never spoke again. To fully appreciate this lesson in conclusion-jumping, stop by the Welsh village of Beddgelert and visit brave Gelert's grave.
Before the Golden Arches, There was Nipper
In 1887, a man named Mark died, leaving his little dog (along with a cylinder phonograph) to his brother, an artist named Francis Barraud. One year later, Barraud completed a painting of Nipper listening curiously to a recording of his late master's voice coming through the phonograph. With a little marketing effort from Barraud, the image of Nipper and the phonograph soon became a ubiquitous advertising symbol for a series of companies, including The Gramophone Company, RCA, and EMI. Then, in 1921, EMI opened the first HMV (His Master's Voice) store. So next time you're walking Rover past an HMV, remember that it wasn't always about flashy pink signs and celebrity posters...rather, it started with a mutt named Nipper.
Feel free to cut this page up into conversational cue cards and hand it out to poop-talking parkies as you see fit! ■