By Mahlia Lindquist
Most dog owners are delusional. They imagine their dog to be extraordinary, to possess human or even super human characteristics not shared by other dogs. Not me. I have always considered my dogs, ages 15 and 9, to be on the average side, and certainly not an interesting topic of conversation. However, I recently experienced something akin to a spiritual revelation and now can’t help but wax poetic about the younger dog, Willow:
Exceptional in appearance, demeanor and spirit. A white, fluffy bichon frise, Willow's prissy looks belie a hardy hiker who has braved steep mountain climbs, long runs in the freezing snow, and even a coyote attack. While game to act the part of rugged mountain dog, he is most content in the role of lap dog. When happy, which is almost always, Willow wears a huge doggy smile. He never picks fights with other dogs, patiently endures the manhandling by children that is inevitable with cute little dogs, and is indiscriminately affectionate. Best of all, his poos are small, which means a lot to someone who strives to be a courteous dog walker. In short, he is the Dalai Lama of canines — adorable and perfect.
Perfection. It means no room for improvement. Though Willow has always been a charming dog, it turns out that he was not exactly perfect. I learned this when something happened to make him more fantastic than ever... perfect in fact. That something was pink dye, and it was life changing, or at least life affirming in its own small way.
I initially accused the culprits, one of my daughters and her friend, of dog abuse. They denied it, arguing that they used strawberry kool-aid, which was harmless. Even so, it just seemed wrong.
What about the dog’s psyche? Willow is male and has long suffered his girlie name. Pink fur just seemed to add insult to humiliating injury. What about my psyche? I am the primary dog walker in the house and just the thought of being out with a pink dog made me turn pink with embarrassment. I pictured people cautioning their kids to stay away from the crazy dog lady and her freaky pink dog.
My only consolation was that having moved from Miami from Boulder, I would not risk public censure and possible arrest. In Boulder, it is illegal to dye your dog. Lawmakers there actually took the time to debate the pros and cons of color treated pets, and came out against . And, there aren’t any safe dye, did it for a good cause exceptions. A Boulder resident -- and I am not making this up -- was fined $1000 for dying her poodle pink, even though she used organic beet juice and did it for breast cancer awareness. Imagine how I would have fared in Boulder having used non organic Kool Aid and for the crass purpose of amusing a couple of teenaged girls.
The good and the bad part of Miami is that political correctness is not a thing. While dyers of pets, toters of guns and drivers of Hummers may be social pariahs in Boulder, no such stigmas exist here. Indeed, Miamians seem to view vegetarian hybrid drivers who bring their own bags to the grocery store, so common in Boulder, with not a small amount of distaste. The bad part is that I am a vegetarian hybrid driver (who usually forgets her bags.) The good part is that I would not be prosecuted or otherwise vilified on account of my pink dog.
My initial reaction when Willow emerged from the pink tinted bath was “this is so wrong.” However, after the girls had him dried and brushed, I couldn’t help but admire their handiwork. The kool-aid left Willow a beautiful soft pink hue so that when standing still he could be mistaken for a stuffed animal. While running he looks like a ball of cotton candy blown loose from it’s stick. It also looks like a bizarre case of doggie sunburn or radiation poisoning. Whatever the association, he undoubtedly looked different.
As different as Willow looked, the change that I saw in people on our daily walk was remarkable. Our walks take us through a busy park where few people make eye contact, much less strike up conversations with a stranger. However, a pink dog brings out the small town in everyone who crosses his path. From the homeless dude, to the hip skateboarder, to the elderly cuban couple, they all smile with delight when they see Willow. Kids can barely contain their joy at the magic of a pink dog. Instead of getting the evil eye when I unleash him and he intrudes upon picnics, Willow is treated as an honored guest. More than one person has gotten off their cell phone to take Willow’s photo and chat me up about how he came to be pink A friend told me that a friend of hers called and raved about the adorable pink dog she had seen walking down the street. Willow is a minor celebrity.
Although I have not acquired any corresponding celebrity as owner of the local pink dog, I have experienced my own little transformation. Before Willow became pink, I was not the type of person who dyed her dog. Not only was I not the type, I did not look like the type. Despite appearances to the contrary, and even though I didn’t actually make Willow pink, when out with him people assume that I did. I’ve learned that someone who people think would dye her dog is more approachable than someone not so inclined. This means that I have become acquainted with many new and interesting people whom I would otherwise have passed without even an exchange of nods. This also means, and this is my favorite part, I get the pleasure of seeing the obvious jolt of joy experienced by everyone who encounters Willow the pink dog.