In Almost Iowa, there is a place where guys can brag about their kids, complain about their wives and argue over the minutia of everyday life.
It is a tavern named The Pit and contrary to popular opinion, cannot be found on the other side oblivion – though one can clearly see oblivion from there.
It serves a necessary social function, much like the relief valve on a pressure cooker – and not to be left out, our dogs enjoy a similar pit of perdition.
Their place is The Ravine and to no one’s surprise is an actually ravine hidden deep within The Minnesota Mosquito Refuge and whenever a dog has a chance to steal away, it is where they go.
The only difference between the two places is that the barking is louder at The Pit.
What follows is what one would hear on a typical afternoon at The Ravine.
“Say Ike, what’s on tap today?”
Ike is a burly no-nonsense Chesapeake Bay Retriever who runs the place.
“Same as every other day: ditch water.”
“Then why is that cute thing at the other end of the bar, sipping fresh spring water?”
“Spring water is for the poodles. You a poodle?”
“Geez Ike, lighten up, I was just asking.”
“You gonna drink or whine?”
“I’ll hold off on the ditch water because I only get let out twice a day.”
“Twice a day?” a dusty dog of dubious origin muses. “My old man only lets me out once at 6:00 am – then HE spends the entire morning drinking coffee and trotting down the hall to the can.”
Ike shakes his head and growls, “No consideration.”
A terrier perks up. “Talk about consideration, my people blew $85 at an Italian Restaurant last week.”
“Then they hit the discount shelf at Wal-Mart for my dinner.”
“$85, huh?” reflects Ike, flicking away flea.
The terrier nods emphatically, “I saw the receipt.”
“Canned discount brands,” a basset groans, “taste like roadkill. Maybe it is.”
At that a yellow lab perks up. “Did someone say roadkill?”
“Aint’t you suppose to be sitting with the coyotes,” Ike asks of him.
The lab slinks off.
“Oughta 86′ him,” Ike says mostly to himself.
“Aw, he’s harmless.”
“Only when he’s downwind.”
“You know what I hate most,” the basset moans.
Ike raises an eyebrow.
On that there is a consensus.
“It’s so one sided. Why the other day, I tried leading my human around. All I wanted to do was whiff a dead skunk. You want to see an old lady get frantic? Try that.”
“You know what’s worse?” This was from a spaniel wearing a pink crocheted sweater.
“What’s that?” Ike asks with all the indifference a big dog can muster.
“What’s the matter with love?”
“You’re not wearing a pink crocheted sweater, are you?”
“I concede your point,” Ike tells him.
“There is nothing wrong with love, per se, but it needs to be spread around. When you focus love too much, it burns like a magnifying glass in the sunlight. Someone needs to tell people that.”
“Tell us about it,” two Pekinese snarled in unison.
“I dunno,” an old dog said, “my old man mostly ignores me and to tell you the truth, I ignore him. I wouldn’t say there is no love lost or found between us, rather I’d say what we got is the epitome of love. He knows what pleases me and I know what pleases him.”
“So what pleases you?”
“A bottomless feeder of dog food, an afternoon in the sun and the freedom to pee anywhere I want in the yard.”
“And he gives you that?”
“What do you give in return?”
“I don’t chew his stuff.”
At that, The Ravine falls into quiet revelry as each dog contemplates what his dog-heaven might look like…
A few dogs sprawl into sleep, a few rest but remained attentive and a few chew and sniff at things dogs tend to chew and sniff at…
“Who said that??”
Dogs bolt and bound in every direction and The Ravine clears out.
A few minutes later, a battle-scarred barn cat pads softly through the grass.
“Coast is clear. All the dogs are gone,” she calls out.
A steady stream of house cats, barn cats, bin site cats and alley cats flows down the banks.
“Say Nellie, what’s on tap today?”
“What? You picky?”
“Nellie, you know what I really hate about sharing a watering hole with dogs?”