My Dog, the Awkward Kid

“Do you think he’s insecure about his height?”

“No… he just ran away from that 11 week old puppy. Maybe it’s the tail?”

“You think we should get him a prosthetic tail?”

Husband gently nudges Willis with his foot, trying to get him to move away from us and toward the very friendly pack of dogs sniffing each other ten feet away.

“Let’s face it, Sarah…. our dog is that awkward kid at the playground that no one will play with.”

We’ve taken Willis to the Overton Dog Bark (get it? Dog… Bark?? cute, huh?) before… it’s a great space… two separate fenced in areas, roughly the size of a football field, with plenty of trees to pee on and dirt to dig in. Owners unleash their dogs and stand around talking like mothers at a soccer game.

Willis has always been hesitant to play with other dogs, but with my husband’s running commentary today, I hadn’t realized the extent to which Willis had fallen into social no man’s land.

Call it being blinded by a mother’s love. “My child? Weird? Noooo… you should see him at home. He’s perfectly normal when he’s in his own element.”

“That dog’s fat.” An 8 year old neighborhood kid points to Willis. “Look at him… he got no tail! It’s funny looking!”

I gently pull Willis away, who is completely oblivious to these horrible insults and is attempting mightily to lick a 4 year old’s ear.

Walking back to where my husband is standing, talking to a tattoo- covered guy wearing Toms and a tank top, I looked across the dog park and made a quick comparison to real people playgrounds.

The labs, which were aplenty, are the popular kids. Everyone loves labs. They’re friendly, but they also travel in packs. Only the dogs that have enough enough energy and boldness jump in the group and run after the tennis balls.

The pit bulls are the jocks. They easily snatch toys out of other dogs’ mouths and make the poor 10 lb dogs quake whenever they lean down to sniff them. Willis was approached by a very… masculine… pit bull, and I thought, “Here’s his key to social acceptance! Go talk to the popular jock, Willis!” He didn’t. He just sat very, very still while he sniffed him, and then when it looked like they would start a conversation, Willis just sat there and did nothing. Sigh.

The terriers… the ones that look like Wishbone? Those are the funny kids. They’re not particularly cute, and they’re usually alot smaller than the others. But they have personality. You’ll usually find them jumping on top of the other dogs and making lots of friends quickly. Willis was also approached by a funny kid, but apparently didn’t get his sense of humor, because he high-tailed it back to our feet in a hurry.

You’ve also got the Huskies… we had three of them come in today. They’re the hot girls. All the dogs just stop and stare at them, but the pit bull was the only one who had the guts to sniff them.

And then, you’ve got the awkward kids. Along with Willis, we have Carlos. Carlos was not at the park today, but he was there last time, and was the quintessential oddball. Carlos is a orange colored dachshund, who’s human BMI would probably have been in the 40’s. He just toddled around, not interacting with any of the dogs. He would go find  a corner and sit. When he got bored, he walked a few steps and sat again. None of the dogs acted like he was even there.

Instead of hanging out with the dogs, Willis preferred spending time with the human people. Every time he felt overwhelmed at a social situation, he would run to the nearest person and sit on their feet. As with normal kids, this is the social kiss of death. You don’t want to be caught dead, having a good time with parents. Ick.

So, with a heavy heart, and my husband bemoaning the fact that we have one of those kids, we leashed Willis up and walked him back to the car. What my husband fails to remember is that both of Willis’ parents had extended awkward times as teenagers. Mine lasted from the day I got braces (where I went from a cute chipmunk-like look to… something not so cute) to the time I was seventeen. I also had a relapse in 2005 with a bad set of bangs. My husband’s awkward period… well, he doesn’t think he was that awkward, but he showed up on Move In Day at college wearing denim shorts, socks, and Birkenstock sandals. His roommate held an intervention several months later where they hid all his pleated shorts in the ceiling tiles, forcing him to buy new clothes.

So, sweet Willis, it’s in your genes. You’ll be less awkward one day, I promise. And if you still have issues in a few years, we’ll pay for a tail job.

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