Leader of the Pack

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“I don’t think twice about picking up my dog’s poop, but if another dog’s poop is next to it, I think, ‘Ew, dog poop!’” Jonah Goldberg

When we took Baby to the Cleveland Cutest Dog Contest, it turned out that not only was he the only Leonberger in the bunch, he was the cutest of the bunch. We took Grayson, our little Lab, too. He wanted to go in the worst way, but we didn’t enter him in the contest, even though he is almost as cute as Baby.

He was happy tagging along.

The contest was at Edgewater Park. It’s part of the Cleveland Metroparks Reservation, about 150 acres of parkland and 9000 feet of shoreline on Lake Erie, fifteen minutes from where we live just south of it on the west side. There’s a fishing pier, picnic areas, and even a dog beach next to the swimming beach.

There were lots of dogs who turned out. Everyone was supposed to write a little about their dog, including their name, breed, and age. We wrote a biography of Baby for the contest, which ended up being mostly about how he has his own bachelor pad and what he does for fun. He was everyone’s favorite. We stood in the long line winding along the lake and through the parking lot to the photo shoot. All the dogs were so good, all standing in line, waiting their turn.

Brian and I scoped out the competition.

“We have this in the bag,” I told him.

It sounds horrible, but we did. I was sure of it.

“We’ll send you a free digital copy of the portrait,” somebody said from cleveland.com’s photography staff, after Baby sat on his haunches tall and proud for his portrait.

After he got his picture taken, I wanted to go through the line to see all the other dogs. There were more than two thousand of them. Since Brian pretty much lets me do whatever I want to do, and he, of course, wanted to see all the dogs, too, we walked back down the line, petting all the dogs as we were leaving the park.

Baby is not usually interested in other dogs, not normally. But, as we went down the line, talking to people and petting their dogs, Baby suddenly stopped. At his feet was a puppy. “Oooooh, puppy,” he thought. You could hear him thinking. He just scooped the other dog up. He fell in love on the spot.

When Baby found his puppy love everyone around us was, “Oh, my God, look how cute he is!”

“Aargh,” said the puppy mom. Baby was easily twenty times his size.

“C’mon Baby, we have to go,” I said.

Leonbergers are bred to look like lions, even though they’re sweet as lambs. But, Baby didn’t want to go. He kept saying no no no. He was being stubborn. He’s the kind of family dog who loves everyone, especially kids and puppies, even though they are themselves guard dogs and search and rescue dogs. He’s loyal and courageous, but he’s mostly a gentle giant.

He loves cuddles. Want a cuddle? He’s your dog!

A lady standing nearby took pictures of the puppy and Baby together. She somehow found me on Facebook, found my phone number, and texted me the pictures.

If you were a dog lover, it was a great day. I never checked the web site afterwards to see if we made the cut for cutest dog of all time. It didn’t matter in the end. We had a great time.

We take Baby everywhere. He’s been to parades, to the Irishfest, and the Germanfest. Everywhere we take him people take pictures of him. If I started charging a buck a picture we would be rich.

The Cleveland Indians have a Pup-a-looza night in the middle of the summer that you can bring your dog to, to the game. Our dogs are just like kids at the ballpark. They want hot dogs and ice cream, so we get them hot dogs and ice cream.

We took Baby to a Cleveland Monsters game. It was seriously cold, but he has plenty of shaggy dog hair to deal with winter. He could play in snow all day, no problem.

The Monsters are the American Hockey League minor league team of the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets, They play at Quicken Loans Arena downtown, the same place where LeBron James leads the Cleveland Cavaliers..

We were walking up to the arena when a Cleveland Police horse with a cop on top stopped beside us.

“I know that dog,” the cop said.

“I know that horse,” I said.

Walking in, strolling along the concourse, and inside the arena finding our seats, Baby was calm and laid back at our side. It was Pucks and Paws Night. Dog Night.

My brother had given us his tickets. There was one section reserved for everyone who had brought dogs. Lots of people who didn’t have dogs wandered into our section, wanting to see the dogs. When it got too crowded we walked around the arena and finally traded in our tickets for seats in the nosebleed section.

Baby loved the game, watching the players speed across the ice, changing direction at the drop of a hat. He was mesmerized, except when he looked straight down, which is when he got seasick

When the third period started he wanted to go down, so we went down to the first level. We stood behind the last row of the first level. A man in front of us was eating a hot dog. Baby’s head was right there, right at his shoulder, ready to get the hot dog, although he didn’t. I took a picture, and before I knew it everyone was taking selfies with Baby.

We could have made a fortune that night.

The Monsters won the game and everyone went home happy. We waved goodbye to the cop on the horse. Baby slept like a log that night, not that he doesn’t sleep like a bump on a log every night.

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