A Visit to America: Bark in the Park

 
Hello, everyone!

      It’s been a lovely vacation in America with family and friends.  Now, back in China, I’m off to Nanjing for our Amity summer conference to meet the new teachers in our organization.  Next, it will be a flight back to Nanning (capital city of Guangxi) for Little Flower and me to take our 3-hour bus journey back to little Longzhou.  The school year is about to start up and I’m looking forward to starting up Year 2 in my Guangxi home.

     For this entry, I’d like to share a newspaper article written for my hometown paper about a local event, Bark in the Park, which took place in Terre Haute, Indiana, while I was home.   My mother, our Sichuan rescue Chihuahua and I participated.
     I hope to post pictures soon.  Currently, I’m using a hotel computer which makes it a little difficult to downlaod such things.  I’m working on it, though, as the photos tell it all.
     Enjoy the story, and  Ping An (peace) for your day!
 
A Recap: Our Chinese Chihuahua Immigrant
 
         Some of you might remember last year’s stories of our Sichuan earthquake-zone rescue dog, Xiao Lao-lao (shee-ow l-ow l-ow,), translated into English as Little Old-old.
         I found him after the Sichuan earthquake on the streets of China in Chengdu city while he was digging through garbage. His coat was dirty and his body emaciated, definitely telling signs of a stray, but what drew me to him was his flapping chin. He had no lower jaw due to a previous injury and no upper teeth, which my U.S. vet later attributed to periodontal disease. Only a few back teeth remained, giving him some ability to chew but not much.
      This sad-looking Chihuahua was just too pitiful for me to pass by.
       I scooped him up and a trip to my Chinese veterinarian had him in good shape after a 3- week hospital stay. Vaccinations, de-worming, neutering and a healthy diet transformed him into a lovable 5-pound companion that anyone would be proud to call his own.
       Although his age was estimated at a young 2 or 3 years old, I named him Little Old-old in Chinese due to his missing teeth, which reminded me of an elderly person.  It was a cute name and he had an even cuter personality, one I thought would surely win him a loving home among the Chinese.
       Yet the search for a home in China didn’t fair well.
       After posting bi-lingual videos on the Net, inviting a Chinese reporter to do a newspaper article on him, trying him out at two possible homes, and asking among my neighbors, colleagues and friends, Little Old was still without a family who wanted him. My own dog, Little Flower, was too jealous for me to have a 2-dog household so it was on to Plan B: America!
 

Celebrating One Year in America
 

      One year ago this summer, while I was on school break from my college teaching position in China, our Chinese immigrant accompanied me across the ocean to Marshall. His adopted family became my parents, Bill and Priscilla Wieck.
       It took awhile to adjust, but in that one year, Lao-lao blossomed and grew into quite the all-American dog. In a proud display of patriotism for town and new-found country, he happily attended my town’s 175th birthday celebrations and All-American night this past July.  But his greatest achievement in American cultural acclimation took place at Terre Haute’s Bark-in-the-Park, held this year on Saturday, August 7.
       This event is hosted jointly by the Terre Haute Humane Society and Young Leaders Program as one of their major fund raisers for the year. Half the proceeds go to the Young Leaders organization for their mini-grant programs.  The other half goes toward the Terre Haute Humane Society.
       Dogs and dog owners are invited to the city’s Deming Park for a short park walk, beginning at 10:15 a.m. Registration is $15 for each walker (dogs are free), with the money raised going toward the Humane Society’s many animal needs and the youth leader’s organization. A complimentary breakfast is also given for those participating.
        Last year, I had really wanted our Chinese immigrant to join in but decided against it. Culture shock was taking its toll on the little guy. Getting used to different sights, smells, people, language and a strange surrounding environment was enough without adding a mob scene of a hundred other canines to the mix.
       Best to wait until next year.
       So all year in China, I kept my eyes glued to the Internet on the Terre Haute Tribune Star’s website to check up on 2010 community events for the summer. Sure enough, Bark-in-the-Park was taking place when I’d be home again for a visit.
         I immediately inserted August 7 onto my calendar for our Deming Park attendance.
 

Our Bark in the Park
 

       Early Saturday morning on the 7th, Lao-lao, my mother and I piled into the car for our 15-minute drive from Marshall to Terre Haute to participate in the city’s doggie event of the summer, Bark-in-the-Park. We arrived at 9:45 Terre Haute time, 30 minutes prior to the walk so we’d have plenty of time to register and settle in with the many other dogs and owners we knew would be there.
        Once at Deming Park, Young Leader volunteers steered us to a grassy parking place. We hustled out of the car to join both humankind and beast crowded around the appointed shelter where our start would begin.
        All dogs were leashed, Lao-lao included, to give us complete control over our pooches.
         I noticed what a well-behaved lot everyone was. Dogs curiously nuzzled one another, sat respectfully, or wagged tails in walking anticipation. Owners greeted everyone with smiles, apologized to others for their dogs’ slobbering leg licks (we didn’t mind!) and complimented nearby walkers on their four-legged friends.
         The registration was a fast process. My mom and I signed in our names and contact information as well as a legal waiver in case anything untoward would happen to either of us, or the dog. I was quite happy to pay our $30 fee ($15 each person) because I knew the good this money was bringing to wayward pets. I didn’t expect anything in return so the neat gift bags filled with doggie treats from numerous sponsors were a big surprise.  Dog biscuits, pet photo discounts, toy frisbees, soaps and rawhide treats graced our bags but the biggest prize in my opinion was the Bark-in-the-Park T-shirt which all two-legged participants received.
        A complimentary breakfast of biscuits and gravy, along with bananas and bottled water for the walk, was also provided for those of us joining in.

       While we milled about, waiting for the walk to begin, our little guy drew attention from admirers who were curious about his protruding tongue.   It perpetually dangles outward since there’s no jaw to hold it in his mouth.     
        Lao-lao was definitely among those dogs who had an interesting story to tell, and whenever people came up to us, my mom made sure to tell it.  Every time someone came for a pet of the "cute little dog," whether the person was young or old, the story was told of our toothless Chinese immigrant, an earthquake-zone stray plucked from the streets of Chengdu now at home in America.  In other words, one very lucky little dog.
       We saw one other physically challenged pooch in our midst who had only 3 legs, the fourth being lost to cancer according to his owner.  
       Much like Lao-lao, neither dog thought much of their differences or strange appearance when grouped among the other canines.  To them, it was just another walk in the park as usual.
 
The Walk Begins!
 
      It was time to start. 
      At 10:15, we were greeted and thanked by our hard-working organizers.  Then the ribbon cutting took place across the starting line and we were off. 
       All were eager to take their places along the park’s roadways and follow the walking route at their own pace.  Little Lao-lao, however, was much more interested in sniffing than walking.  He headed toward the grassy areas where the best smells were and decided that’s where he’d stay.  Forget the walk!  Go for the smells.
       Numerous happy doggies passed us by before my mother decided that was enough.  She scooped up our wayward Chi and off we went, carrying him a majority of the way until he got the idea that smelling and walking are two different things.  After all, this event was  Bark in the Park, not  Smell in the Park.
       Toward the end of our 20-minute jaunt, he finally took a nice leash-trot with us so we could at least cross the finish line in style.  But the rest of the time, it was mostly us walking and the dog leisurely enjoying the view from our arms.
        Along the way, we did pass some other owners having similar dog-walking troubles. 
        One older gentleman stood in utter exhasperation as his huge pug collapsed at his feet in a heap.  The poor overweight dog was already exhausted after 50 yards.  He flopped on the roadway, legs splayed in all directions, and panted.  He refused to go any further.  Had he been 5 pounds, like our dog, his owner could have easily picked him up for the rest of the journey.  But being a rather hefty and sturdy dog, it would have been quite a chore to carry him. 

         Most likely, dog and owner ended up going home without the satisfaction of reaching the finish line.
        Then we had our over-enthusiastic water lovers, those who couldn’t resist a cool splash in the plastic kids’ pools left at strategic locations for canine enjoyment.  Three of these tubs lined the walk route, including one at the finish line, and definitely received the most attention from both dogs and walkers alike.  
         The dogs gleefully lapped, waded, emmersed themselves and frolicked in the cool water provided. 
         The owners stood nearby to enjoy the sight.  Most, like me, had their cameras in constant use, capturing hilarious, memorable photos of our watery pit-stop junctions.
 
An Event Fully Enjoyed by All
 
        When it came time to cross the finish line, no one wanted to leave. 
        While our organizers were busy packing up their tables and supplies, wanting to call it quits for the morning, we dog owners were still hanging about.   It seems our 20-minute walk wasn’t enough time for us to show off our pets or complete chit-chatting with other animal lovers such as ourselves.  We truly wanted the event to last longer.
         Even Lao-lao was up for more smells.
         But eventually, the heat crept up on us to the point where it was ready to head back to the air-conditioned comfort of our cars for the journey home.
         Driving back to Marshall, our immigrant had trouble keeping his eyes open.  His comfy sit on my mother’s lap, while I was behind the wheel, put him fast to sleep. 
        I’m sure other owners experienced the same as we did:  A very contented family member, already dreaming of next year’s Bark in the Park with both canine companions and beloved humans.
        I know we are!  Hope to see you there next year.
        Same park, same bark.
 

About connieinchina

I have been in the Asia region for 18 years as an English language teacher. 13 of those have been spent with the Amity Foundation, a Chinese NGO that works in all areas of development for the Chinese people. Amity teachers are placed at small colleges throughout China as instructors of English language majors in the education field. In other words, my students will one day be English teachers themselves in their small villages or towns once they graduate. Currently, this is my second year in Guangxi Province at the 3-year college, Guangxi Normal University for Nationalities. The college is located in smalltown longzhou, 1 hour from the Vietnam border.
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