Andersen: Small dogs poop, too
You can see them on the trail — the leavings of small dogs, more and more of them. They sit in little piles on the trails for the unwary to step on, too innocuous for their owners to bother picking up or perhaps too embarrassing to even acknowledge.
These are the calling cards of the tiny-dog culture that has hit mountain communities over the past decade. What this trend means as metaphor and symbol of mountain culture is something to ponder. You can do so while dodging the poop piles of preened poodles.
It used to be that mountain dogs were judged by their size and ferocity. The biggest, meanest dog ruled in a kind of law-of-the-jungle pecking order. At the top of the pyramid loomed Samoyed huskies.
That was Crested Butte 40 years ago, when men were men and so were the women, when dogs were dogs and that was that, and you feared the packs that prowled the streets and alleys at night if you dared to come home late from the bar.
There was one dog I will long remember. His name was Sam. He was the prize dog of Crested Butte in the early ’70s. Sam was huge, more resembling a lion than a dog. He had a thick mane of wiry, reddish hair and an enormous muzzle. He bore long, white fangs that sent the fear of God (or dog, for you dyslexics) through many a trembling canine.
Sam was owned by Don Bachman, who also owned Tony’s Tavern. That was the 3.2 beer joint on Elk Avenue where youngsters, like I was back then, could quaff a cold one at the bar and watch the Butte turn.
Don was a Crested Butte classic whose visage could have stood behind that bar during the early mining days of the late 1800s. The vintage Dodge Power Wagon he drove gave him high esteem among us admiring locals.
Don was an icon not only for his Power Wagon and rustic appearance but for Sam, his alpha dog. When you saw Sam on the street (I don’t believe I ever saw him leashed), you knew this was a dog to reckon with. And that’s not just dogma.
Sam was reputed to have battled packs of marauding coyotes when they ventured into town. It was Sam’s White Fang mystique that gave Crested Butte a rare atmosphere as a real mountain town. One thing’s for sure: No one picked up Sam’s poop in a plastic bag — or even two plastic bags. Sacking his poop was far beneath his dogged dignity.
One of my first memories of CB was on a cold and snowy night. I stepped out of Tony’s Tavern feeling the glow from a pitcher of 3.2 beer — and the desperate need for a hidden snowbank.
After sidling around an alley where the plow had pushed up a huge wall of snow, I found a hidden alcove and contributed my share of Coors Rocky Mountain spring water into the Gunnison River watershed. I called it my trans-mountain perversion.
Standing there, my breath pluming with each steamy exhale, I heard what sounded like a wild party going on at the edge of town, on Gibson’s Ridge. The yips and howls made my skin crawl as I realized it was a pack of coyotes taunting Sam with the call of the wild. I’m certain that Sam pricked up his ears and hackled his fur at these wild cousins, a low growl in his throat.
That was then, and this is now, and small dogs have come to define mountain muttery in its most diminutive sense. Their leavings are no larger than a marmot turd or the squeezings of a squirrel, so I can’t really blame their owners for not stooping to regulations and bagging their pets’ offal, which could be scooped up in a teaspoon.
Mountain towns have lost something by adopting dogs that are mere appetizers for opportunistic coyotes instead of mortal threats from the likes of Sam. Now, when the coyotes howl, they’re just laughing at what we call dogs today in Aspen.
Paul Andersen’s column appears on Mondays when he’s not plagued by pitiful piles of poodle poop. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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