An Outlook

Note: With Fall Fest in Sister Bay rapidly approaching, many of you have asked if I was planning to write about dogs again. By way of accommodation, I present a column I wrote back on October 7, 2001 for the Door Reminder. Unlike other columns I have recycled in the past, this one never actually made it into print. Going unpublished was, as it turned out, a blessing of sorts since One Dog’s promised change of tactics never materialized and he and his itinerant dogs still beset Fall Fest.

Confused? Well, read on and all will be revealed.

Another Fall Festival arrives in Sister Bay this weekend, and I had hoped that this one would come and go without my ever mentioning the “dogs at festivals” subject. Unfortunately, the arrival of the mail on Saturday made this scenario impossible.

For those of you who are visitors, are new to the peninsula, or simply have never gotten around to reading this column before (perish the thought!) it might be useful for me to provide a little background to what follows at the end of this week’s column.

It all began several years ago, just before Sister Bay’s Fall Festival, when I wrote a column that decried the practice of dog owners bringing their pets to village festivals. I tried to have a little fun while simultaneously making my point and many readers voiced their agreement. Of course, there were many readers who disagreed, and the limits of my persuasive powers were quickly demonstrated when Fall Fest arrived without any appreciable drop in the number of owners parading through town with their dogs.

Undeterred, the following year, I again wrote a column about the inappropriateness of canines at festivals designed for human amusement – with largely the same results. This might have become a never-ending cycle of futility if Barb and I hadn’t experienced a chance encounter while on vacation in Cedarburg.

Barb and I like to go to Cedarburg each year around the time of our anniversary and, as fate would have it, this often coincides with that community’s winter festival. It was during just such a getaway that I made a startling discovery while Barb and I walked the streets admiring ice sculptures and other activities: the dogs that were walking the streets with their “owners” in Cedarburg were exactly the same dogs I saw walking the streets of Sister Bay with their “owners.” Indeed, after thorough research and extensive intelligence gathering, I discovered that the same group of dogs went from community festival to community festival, adopting different “owners” as a cover wherever they went. And, most importantly, these dogs were all under the direction of a lead dog known simply as One Dog.

With the discovery of this new information, things between the dogs and I quickly became more adversarial. Among the events that ensued was the delivery of a letter to the Reminder offices from One Dog threatening the health and safety of my cats. And, of course, there was my memorable victory over the dogs in Cedarburg where, with the help of my friends Caslon Bold and Franklin Gothic, we used ultrasound to keep the entire pack of dogs outside the city limits for the duration of the city’s winter festival.

So now another Fall Festival is upon us and, as I said at the outset, I was prepared to abandon the dog issue this year. Yet, that changed when my mail arrived on Saturday. Among the various bills and advertisements was a smudged envelope addressed to the “News Editor, Door Reminder,” that inexplicably used my post office box number. Inside I found the press release that follows.

Just so that there is no misunderstanding here, folks, I normally do not include press release information or anything resembling announcements in my column. In this case, however, I am making an exception in the hopes that the inclusion of this press release will end the dogs at festivals controversy once and for all. So here’s the release in its entirety, exactly as it was printed when it arrived in my mail.

Canines Plan Festivals For 2002

Responding to concerns about the welfare of the dog population attending festivals and events in Door County designed to entertain the human population, in addition to animosity toward canine attendance at these events from some in the media, plans are currently under way to organize a series of “dog only” festivals in communities throughout the Door peninsula during the 2002 tourist season.

In making the announcement One Dog, noted festival attendee and spokesdog for the newly formed Recreation & Amusement Benefiting Itinerant Dogs (RABID), outlined a few of the goals the new slate of festivals hopes to achieve.

“We want to ensure that dogs throughout the county, and from the Midwest as a whole, will have ample opportunity to enjoy the recreational activities available in the wonderful summer climate of Door County,” he stated. “In the past, our attendance at the festivals designed for humans has caused some in the community to try to ban our attendance. In some cases, they have been successful. As dogs, we have little leverage through the legal system and as a result, we have determined that the best way to participate in these festivals is to not participate. Instead, we will host our own festivals with activities particularly designed to entertain every breed of dog.”

One Dog then elaborated on some of the activities RABID intends to include at the festivals. “The activities planned focus on things we dogs enjoy doing. With that in mind we are looking toward traditional activities like a bone burying speed competition, individual tug-o-war, and digging up the garden competition. Of course, no canine festival would be complete without a Prelude to Defecation Dance Competition. That one’s a real crowd pleaser. We’ve come a long way from just a few simple turns. One winner, from a competition I attended in Canada a few years back, incorporated a series of flips, mid-air spins, and howls before going about his business. It was truly spectacular.”

The key question on everyone’s mind, however, is whether humans will be allowed to attend the canine festivals.

“Unlike our counterparts,” One Dog stated, “humans will be welcome at our festivals, though they may not find much of interest. For my own part, I am particularly hopeful that a certain columnist from the Door Reminder will attend at least one of our festivals. I envision him as a perfect subject for the Leg Humping Endurance Competition.”

If you are interested in assisting with the planning and logistics of next year’s canine festivals (whether you are canine or human), or if you would simply like more information call (800) 248-3968. That’s (800) BITE-YOU.