Saturday, July 10, 2010

WE SCARED THE PEOPLE AT MARKET DAYS

Too often I do things that I don’t thoroughly think through before I do them. Such was the case on Thursday when I decided to go Concord’s annual Market Days.

I’ve always enjoyed Market Days and have gone every year for as long as Concord has held them. It’s fun to stroll down Main Street, which is closed to traffic, and shop at the booths and tables that line the street and sell everything from exotic foods to homemade candles and half-price shoes. And then there is the entertainment: dancers, bands, karate demonstrations, disc jockeys, karaoke and much more.

So Thursday afternoon I headed to Concord with my rottweiler, Willow. Since we moved out to the middle of nowhere, Willow hasn’t had much of an opportunity to socialize, so I thought it would be a good idea to walk her in a place where there would be a lot of people and other dogs.

It never crossed my mind that people might fear a dog that stands about 30 inches high and weighs nearly 120 pounds.

The minute Willow and I started to stroll down Main Street, I realized that maybe she wasn’t going to have the joyful afternoon of socializing I’d imagined she’d have. The fact that people practically fell over each other jumping out of the way and little children ran screaming to their parents the minute they spotted Willow approaching was a pretty good hint. Had I been walking a skunk on a leash, I don’t think the reaction could have been worse.

Finally, a man approached us. “What a bee-yoo-ti-ful dog!” he gushed, looking truly awed. “Please, may I pat her?” The minute he touched Willow, she was in love, cuddling up to him and wagging.

Onlookers watched this man as if he were a lion tamer about to thrust his head into the lion’s mouth. When they saw that he’d managed to touch Willow without losing any major body parts, a few of them walked over and also asked to touch her.

Willow was in her glory.

Then came the man with a pitbull. The two dogs locked eyes. Willow wagged. The pitbull didn’t.

“Is your dog friendly?” I asked the guy.

“Oh yes, he’s just a big pussycat,” the guy answered. He brought his dog closer to Willow. They sniffed each other and everything seemed fine…until the pitbull decided to growl and sink his teeth into Willow’s ear.

The growling match that followed attracted a group of people who probably thought dog wrestling was part of the entertainment.

“Gee, my dog’s never done that before,” the guy said, yanking his pitbull away. “Is your dog OK?”

The only thing injured was Willow’s pride. I decided it was time to go find a bench, have a seat and give Willow a drink of water. I found a bench in the shade in Eagle Square and sat down on one end of it. Then I pulled a bottle of water and a plastic bowl out of my bag and Willow and I both had a drink.

At the other end of the bench was a stone wall on which two women were seated. Another woman soon joined them and sat on the end of the bench. She leaned over to talk to the other two women. In her right hand was an ice cream cone, which she wasn’t paying attention to as she chatted with her friends. Every time she spoke, she waved her hand with the cone in it…right in Willow’s face.

Before I could blink, the woman’s scoop of ice cream had vanished. The only evidence as to where it had gone was a very happy rottweiler with vanilla ice cream on the end of her nose.

The woman turned to eye her cone, which was empty, and then to glare at us.

“I’m really sorry!” I said. “My dog ate your ice cream. I’ll buy you another one.”

“Um, that’s OK,” she said, smiling tightly. “I really didn’t need the calories anyway.”

Just then, only a few feet away, a group of bagpipers began to play. With the first blast of bagpipe music, Willow jumped straight up in the air. It was a sound she’d never heard before. She barked at it.

That did it. I figured that Willow and I had done enough socializing for one day. We headed back toward the car.

On the way, Willow met two pugs, a Pyrenees, a bulldog and a Lhasa Apso, all of which were friendly and playful. She decided she wanted to stay and play.

Trying to convince a 120-pound dog to leave when it didn’t want to was like trying to move a boulder with a feather. And the fact that a woman offered Willow and organic dog cookie from one of the “go green” booths didn’t help matters any. Willow was ready to spend the night.

When we finally got home, I realized that Willow actually had enjoyed herself at Market Days – eating, playing, making both four-legged and two-legged friends, stealing ice cream – while I hadn’t done a thing. No pigging out on fried dough, no shopping for bargains, no watching the singers and dancers. I’d spent all afternoon steering Willow away from food-carrying kids who were her height. The ice-cream snatching incident had warned me that no slice of pizza or hot dog was safe anywhere within three feet of her face.

On the bright side, for the first time in the history of Market Days, I came home with the same amount of money I’d left home with.