3/18/18: Mucky-Muck Delight 

Bryn, Joe and I stopped at one of Bryn’s favorite bark parks two days ago. The thermometer registered 38 degrees, just warm enough to encourage a half-thaw. I opened the second of four gates- and gasped. The much larger ‘big dog’ park was a quagmire! The earth had softened into black glop. Muck, two inches deep in places, was everywhere. Doggie paws would pound it into thicker treacle. Bryn would be filthy in seconds, not to mention cold and wet. And how on earth would we cope with that amount of mud when she entered our car again? 
So, we backed off and opened the ‘small dog’ park gate. This area is used much less in winter, as little dogs cope poorly in deep snow. So, its ground had remained semi-firm. 

After a few minutes watching Bryn sniff its perimeter we noticed another couple had driven up. Their two pre-teen girls led a middle-sized hound into our area, remarking that they’d be crazy to let Samson play next door. Cleaning him up would take forever, and after that they’d face mucky-muck on their car seats. 
No, thanks! 
The two dogs sniffed each other, but didn’t care to romp yet. 

Then- another car drove up. It sat there for a long time, but we noticed that its chassis moved and swayed, as though a very large animal was moving around in there. 
Finally, a woman wearing an attractive fur pillbox hat and fitted winter coat got out, then struggled to extract three leashed, handsome, rambunctious golden retrievers wearing expertly combed, shining off-white coats. They looked fresh from the groomers. She finally managed to lead them past the first two gates- a tricky business, as their three leashes, connecting to one main lead she’d anchored to her wrist, kept tangling as they scrambled over each other in excited anticipation. The resulting confusion made for quite a spectacle. 
(Why hadn’t she removed them from the car one at a time? 
Oh, well...) 

As I moved closer to her she glanced my way, trying to keep her balance. 
“Hi!” I said, cheerfully, speaking through the chain link fence. “You might want to re-think going into the big dog area; it’s a lake of mud. Come in here where it’s nicer...” 

She shrugged, too busy coping to smile. “Doesn’t matter; my guys love all that room; we’ll be fine.” (Only yesterday it had been fine- about 29 degrees. A couple of inches of fresh snow had fallen, producing a white, clean, hard field. But today’s considerably warmer air had utterly changed that topography. 
Couldn’t she see??) 

Okay. Fine. 
She’d been warned... 

I backed off and all of us watched, riveted, as she eventually managed to unhook each dog’s leash and then open the fourth and final gate. The three animals fell over themselves to be the first to charge inside the big park. Barking happily they skidded through room-sized puddles of brackish muck. One gorgeous guy actually lowered himself to roll around and around in one before turning upside down to wriggle deeper! 
In seconds he was unrecognizable. 
We groaned in unison. 
He stood upright and shook mightily. Black water and mud- and the inevitable bits of poo that hadn’t been picked up over the previous icy weeks- clung tenaciously to his once-gorgeous coat, or flew off to splatter the lady’s. 
She seemed unperturbed. 
It was surreal. 

The other two retrievers raced up and down the long field on long, pale, fringed legs that kicked up, and collected, dirty water and mud paddies. Their bellies were coal-black strings. Their softly bannered tails were now soaked black poles from which dangled so much clotted mud that wagging was all but impossible. 

But wait! This show wasn’t over!! 

That lady left them to walk back to her car, where she leashed, then extracted (with much difficulty) two more biggish, short-haired, enthusiastic tan dogs of uncertain vintage, and led them into that park. 
Both gleeful animals were transformed in seconds. 
We all gaped in disbelief. FIVE?? 

Was she a dog walker/sitter? Were they were out for their afternoon exercise? But how could this be? She couldn’t return them to their owners’ homes in this state. 

Or, were they all hers, and she truly wasn’t worried about practicalities? 
Her car’s interior was probably doomed... 

None of us had ever seen such drastic transformations- from svelte, groomed calendar-gorgeous dogs to ‘creatures from the black lagoon,’ as the two children dubbed them. 

The woman’s fur-lined boots sank deeper as she stood out there cheering on her charges as they ran happily about, or wrestled. She even tossed ice crusted, blackened, shredding tennis balls for them to fetch. Her mittens turned black. 
But. Never once did we witness distress or annoyance in her voice, or on her face. She stood out there enjoying her dogs’ enjoyment, seeming to live for the moment. Everyone was having fun
Her motto could be: Don’t worry; be happy; there’s only now... 

Twilight was morphing into darkness. We began to shiver and decided to go, which meant we’d miss their eventual departure. That would be fascinating theatre, lasting a long time. 

Joe warmed our car and we and the other couple collected our reasonably clean dogs and drove away, shaking our heads. The woman would be up half the night trying to make those five animals acceptable. 
Where would that happen? Inside her house? Surely not. Her shower would gag, then cough it all back up. 
Outside? How? Garden hoses were shut off for winter. 
Could she hope to resurrect her car’s interior? 
How about her own spattered winter coat and boots? 

So many questions... 
The work she faced tonight simply boggled our minds. 

Huh! I admit that, looking past my amazement and wonder, I did feel a sneaking admiration for her chutzpah. 
There was probably a lesson here, somewhere... 
But, just perhaps, it had been taken that one step too far...

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