Dog days

Canine contemplations on a city in heat

Illustration By Elwood Smith

You humans have it way too easy.

And if I have to listen to one more of you two-legged dawgs bitching about how there are way too many laws on the books, I’m going to inhale somebody’s ankle like a ham sandwich. Try being a dog sometime, OK?

It’s like this, homes: Whenever you want to go outside, you go. Whenever one of us wants to experience the great outdoors, we have to look at you with baleful eyes, or paw at the door while wagging our tails, or bark, or lay like Sphinxes, gazing stupidly at the door like you’ll get some kind of clue. Then, if massa is feeling charitable, you hook us up with a leash before letting us go explore the alfresco world.

This, of course, limits our options considerably.

Once outside, however, Sacramento ain’t such a bad place for a pooch, even on the dreaded leash.

Why? First, any place that calls itself “City of Trees” is going to be a winner from a dog’s standpoint, especially considering there is no “City of Fire Hydrants” on record anywhere. A city filled with trees presents numerous opportunities for inter-canine communication—a network of pee-mail portals where we dogs can find out about the comings and goings in our community.

And Sacramento does have pee-mail portals. Lots of them.

Trees, of course, also provide valuable shade. And one of this town’s major shortcomings, from a dog’s point of view, is the unrelenting summer heat, which lowers our energy levels considerably. But the presence of shade-bearing foliage provides a cool place to lie around and practice our Snooz Doggy Dogg acts, or at least look like the pathetic curs in those tacky “hillbilly fire alarm” postcards one finds in some of the more déclassé truck-stop gift shops.

Unfortunately, leash laws in this burg prevent the unfettered congregation of canines, so that any chance of organizing the kind of impromptu conversational affair—from highbrow doggie debate to lowbrow toasting contest—is moot.

Illustration By Charles Nitti

Certainly, the city, in its infinite wisdom, has set up several “dog socialization” areas, like the ones at Howe Park and William Land Park, but these seem to be more for the benefit of dog owners than actual dogs. Case in point: Last time massa took me to one of these cyclone-fenced meat markets that are designed by know-nothings to be some kind of butt-sniffing nirvana for the four-legged set, he got tumescently enamored with some blond newscaster type who showed up with a rather brain-dead Jack Russell. Meanwhile, a gang of unruly pit-bull mutants lined up to dry-hump yours truly, to drive home some idiotic dominance issue. It was not a pretty sight.

Speaking of meat markets, let’s bark about what’s been lost—not just in America in general, but in Sacramento in particular. The corporate remaking of America isn’t just putting a Starbucks/Noah’s Bagels/Jamba Juice combo on every corner. The real tragedy is that homegrown businesses can’t seem to compete with their better-financed national competitors.

Take butcher shops. A few old dogs can recall an independent butcher or two who would dole out scraps of meat to the local canine population every afternoon. It was a real social event, and, for the most part, those lucky dogs behaved themselves, with minimal snarls and snaps. In one delicious account I heard, a butcher would open the top half of a Dutch door every day but Sunday, promptly at 3 p.m., and there would be a clientele of at least a dozen dogs who were ready to dine.

These days, you think some corporate supermarket butcher is going to humor the local pooches with some excess meat? Not when he can mix it in with low-grade hamburger meat to fatten the profit margin, thus denying neighborhood dogs the raw, red meat we deserve.

And restaurants are less than charitable to free-range dogs trying to bum a spare bite from snooty diners in Mayor Fargo’s outdoor-cafe Disneyland, too. It’s like, go straight to Bradshaw Road; do not pass “go”; do not collect $200. Not a good thing.

On top of a dearth of free meat, modern life in Sacramento continues to get more complicated. Take those big, lumbering sport-utility vehicles. Please.

And no, there aren’t nearly as many Hummers in Sacramento as you might find in, say, Beverly Hills. But there are a number of other fat four-wheeled beasts rolling around—Ford Excursions, GMC Yukons, Chevy Tahoes and Suburbans, Lincoln Navigators, Dodge Durangos. Fortunately, the price of gas ought to be keeping these behemoths nice and stationary in the driveway, where a dawg can pee-mail the tires without the risk of getting flattened.

But as new technology arises to replace the internal-combustion engine, new problems for dogs come into view, too. Take this new generation of electric-gasoline hybrid vehicles: A dog of our acquaintance went after a Toyota Prius for a run-by pee-mailing and singed his scrotal hair when his stream hit some weird electric part none of us knew about. And now he’s maimed for life. Thanks, Toyota.

So much for the bad. There are some very nice attributes to life in Sacramento for a dog. One of them, of course, is the same thing that most of you humans find alluring: the American River Parkway. On a hot summer day, nothing beats a dip in the cool water. And when the salmon are running in September and December, there’s nothing like finding a dead, rotting fish to roll over and get yourself really stinky. Sorry if gentle reader finds that idea disgusting, but you’ve got to be a dog to understand.

But not to worry—if the funky stench of decomposing salmon is too much for you finicky dog owners, you can drag the pooch to Launder Dog at 2600 Alta Arden Expressway for a serious hosing down. Don’t worry about pissing us off—we will love you for it.

This is Dawg Doggy Dogg, gangsta barka, and I’m Audi 5000: old-school.