Saturday, March 7, 2009

A funny thing happened on the way to the market...

So I started off the day with the following intentions:

1. Get up.

2. Go to the farmer's market and buy tomatoes.

3. Go to the local pug meet-up at 11A.

4. Have my friend Honey over for brunch (and by brunch, I mean burn some waffles and drink wine).

5. Recover from brunch, etcetera.

I woke up at 7:30, and decided that a. I didn't feel like being adventurous (aka, testing out a new farmer's market as I'd planned), so instead I'd go to my old stand-by market, the one in Old Town Alexandria*; and b. I'd do a rare thing for a Saturday (and even rarer for going to the farmer's market), I'd actually take a shower and get dressed.

I tend to diddledork around a lot when I get dressed, so we left the house sometime around 9A. We decided to bring Alice with us
-- while they don't allow dogs into the market, I figured we'd go down to the marina and toss a ball around for a while (as an aside, I also decided to pack my camera, in case we left OT late. That way, I wouldn't need to stop back at the house to pick it up before the meet-up).

When we got down there, we started noticing a lot of no parking signs. It occurred to me that it might be St. Patrick's Day Parade Day-- a very fun event in OT with a bunch of activities, typically done a ridiculously long time ahead of St. Patrick's day (I believe last year it was held the first day of March). We began to think that maybe our day would be a little different. There will be a pug meet-up next month; we'll go then. And maybe Honey wouldn't mind rescheduling (she didn't). I was also feeling pretty lucky that I decided on a whim to bring my camera. We got some terrific pictures of Alice just walking around.

On the way down to Center Square (where the farmer's market is held), a woman stops us and coos over Alice.

"You're entering her in the dog show, right?" she asks.

"Um...what?" we respond.

It ends up that on Parade Day, there's a big dog show (aptly called the Fun Dog Show) that benefits the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria, the local shelter. There are vendors around and several different contests you can enter. But as the lady explained, it's "definitely not Westminster": categories include Most Unique/Disproportionate Dog; Distinctive Markings; Best Tail Wagger; Most Unusual Tail; Best Irish Costume; and my favorite, Dogs and Owners with the Most Similar Hair. We asked her where it was being held, and she said right down at Center Square.

So apparently the farmer's market ends early on Parade Day to accommodate the dog show. We walked the couple of blocks down, and surrounding the signs that says "Please no pets on the Square during the farmer's market" are dogs. And not just normal dogs, but also dogs dressed up in outfits that would make a leprechaun cringe. Dogs wearing green beaded necklaces. Even a dog with green pipe cleaners wrapped around his tail. The place was teeming with dogs. And even one cat on a leash, who looked like he'd be doing anything but hanging out at the Fun Dog Show.

It was just too much fun-- and too coincidental that we just happened to change all of our plans and bring Alice-- not to sign up. We entered her in two contests: Most Unique Look and Most Unusual Tail. And then we ran across the street to CVS and bought her some St. Patrick's Day flair.

She didn't win either contest, but she was on stage three times: for both of her contests and they asked that all dogs who came from shelters to come on stage and be introduced (let me tell you how great it was to see how many there were-- it took easily 10-15 minutes to do all of the 10 second intros. Let me also say I was really glad I decided on a whim to get dressed this morning). She handled it surprisingly well. The crowds didn't bother her, she made a couple of new dog friends, and she got lots of attention from both adults and kids. Alice loves attention from anyone, but she was in heaven with all of the kids-- she's nuts for them.

One thing that I really loved is that the Fun Dog Show really catered toward the misfit dog-- the kind you see a lot around here.
I remember years ago my mom told me that when she was little, she entered her dog in some sort of little contest like that and hers was crowned ugliest. She said it really upset her. At the Fun Dog Show, there was zero attempt to crown the prettiest dog. There were dogs on stage with badly bobbed tails, questionable heritage, old and gray, scarred, over- and undergrown, funny-looking mixes, you name it. And yet all of them were welcomed and considered viable contenders. What was really cute is that every dog that competed got a ribbon. Seeing dogs walk around wearing their ribbons was too precious for words.

Once the Fun Dog Show was over, we staked out a curb a few blocks away and watched the parade. Alice was really good for probably about an hour (she even had her picture "taken" with Alexandria's Mayor Euille-- he's the one in the hot red car), but about 20 minutes into the parade we learned that Alice has grown to ignore motorcycle noise but is petrified of drums and bagpipes. Not the best thing to fear while at a St. Patrick's Day parade. She hid behind the Human Male for a bit with the drums, and we moved her away for the second bagpipe brigade-- it didn't help, so we went home. She seemed so relieved on the car ride home.

After getting back to the house, we sat on the patio and enjoyed the beautiful 70-degree weather (hard to believe we had a big snowstorm just five days before), and Alice curled up in my lap, tired out from her big day.

It's always interesting to look back at the end of a day and to see how different it ended up from what you intended. If you told me Alice was coming home as an "award-winner", that we'd learn that she hates bagpipers and drum corps, that we'd get her picture in front of a Delorean, and that I'd be buying tomatoes at the grocery store 12 hours later than originally planned, I wouldn't have believed it.

* As an aside, no one ever believes me when I tell them that Old Town has a Confederate soldier statue in the middle of an intersection. I remembered to take a picture of it this time. See? Yes, Virginia's considered the South, people.

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