Hundreds of years from now, when archeologists from another planet stumble upon the ruins of San Francisco, they will uncover a city structured around a very mysterious religion – the divine deity that is the Dog. They will wonder what sort of population crisis we’d encountered when they find that the remains of dogs outnumber those of human children. And they will wonder how a creature without thumbs managed to enslave us all.
If the world had ended Saturday, April 14, 2012, our alien archeologists would find the ruins of Dogfest 2012 in Duboce Park, one of San Francisco’s most popular dog destinations. And they would find premium bejeweled leather dog collars, dog apparel, luxurious, stylish dog bedding, dog food, dog snacks, and dog portraits.
The current of dog love in San Francisco is so strong that even I, a newcomer as of December, have been swept up in it. I work part-time as a dog walker and I also contribute to Dogster. With my fine arts photography background I am considering pet portraits. When my lease is up, I am going to find a pet-friendly rental, and, after years of resistance, I am going to get a dog.
Which is why I was so excited to attend Dogfest 2012, the fifth in a series of annual fundraisers for McKinley Elementary.
It was a perfect Bay Area spring day as I descended upon Duboce Park alongside a stream of dogs and their families. The event featured activities and games for children, a host of dog product and service vendors, food, and entertainment as directed by emcee Daniel Handler (author and official representative of Lemony Snicket). A lover of big dogs, I was immediately drawn to a trio of black Great Danes and their human, Bonnie Spindler, a real estate agent who, in addition to being one of the city’s Victorian specialists, also concentrates on helping people find dog-friendly housing.
I then met Heket and her human. Heket was sporting a very becoming blonde wig and coquettish coat, and upon commenting on her attire, I learned that she was registered for Dogfest’s Best Costume contest as Miss Emma Peel from The Avengers disguised as a maid – in other words, a dog disguised as a human disguised as another human. Mind = blown.
Dogfest’s panel of judges included Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Gos alongside other personalities and politicians. The competition was pretty stiff, and Heket lost to a dog dressed as the Pope. One of the other winning dogs was ingeniously dressed as an elephant – this could be the first time a Republican has ever won anything in San Francisco.
Best Trick went to a dog who provided and discarded Kleenex for her sneezy human and Best Runway Strut went to a charming Newfoundland named Boo, who gently accepted the enthusiastic embrace of a swarm of children.
Wandering the park, I met a whole cast of dogs. I imagined the life I would have with my own dog, going on walks, hanging out on the couch, and always having a shoulder to lean on. As I spoke with Anna and Grant of Paco Collars, I picked out the premium leather and rhinestone collar I would want for my pup – only the best, of course!
I was pretty convinced that a big dog would be the only kind of dog for me, until I met Indy, a small Pit mix currently placed with a foster through Rocket Dog Rescue. After crouching down to hold out my hand to her, she padded over on unsteady puppy paws and plopped down next to me, leaning against my knees.
I realized that when it comes to getting my dog, it won’t be about the dog I want, but about the dog I need. Growing up with dogs, I am more than familiar with the unconditional love they provide. I had an Australian Shepherd named Jasmine who would sit at my feet while I did my homework. As I’ve matured and experienced the triumphs and despairs of growing up, I’ve come to realize how important it is to have friends in your corner, who will hold you when you cry and celebrate when you succeed, and a dog is a friend who will never ask for more than to be at your side through it all.
So while they may not have opposable thumbs to open the door and let themselves out to use the restroom, or a job to help pay the rent while they eat through an expensive bag of organic kibble, there’s a reason why we’ll happily tote a baggie of poop around for them – they love us.
I saw it in all the dogs of Dogfest that day … that look of adoration with abandon, that unabashed, unconditional affection. They willingly endure our absurdity, they gladly don costumes for our amusement, and they humbly perform at our command, just like the Busy Bee Dogs, who dazzled the audience with leaps and tricks. Depending on us for food, shelter, and care, we are their gods, but we are the ones who worship them, because dogs are always happy to see us when we come home – and we love them even when they’ve chewed up a favorite pair of shoes.
Dogfest was a celebration of a creature whose humility elevates it to nobility. As the park cleared and I wrapped up my camera for the bus ride back, I felt elated. I felt the happy energy of all those dogs, faithfully trailing their families home, content with their fates as our companions. Life may be unpredictable, but Fido will always be a safe bet.
Photos by Liz Acosta Photography