It will happen sooner or later. A bus carrying dozens of the nation’s meanest, vilest criminals will crash on Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge. Unexpectedly liberated, this band of bad guys (and for some reason, John Malkovich) will run off into the woods along the Androscoggin River, free to plan their revenge on the society that imprisoned them.

Enter the police posse. In a panic, they have assembled in a housing project near the bridge, desperate to keep the runaway cons contained while a horrified public waits.

“What we need,” says our hard-boiled hero, a cop with oversized sunglasses and a toothpick poking from his lips, “are dogs. Lots of dogs. Dogs to sniff these gringos out and drive them into the river.”

“But where,” squeaks a frantic underling, “where will we find that many dogs on such short notice. Where, boss? Where?”

Camera pans from the posse to the woods where the bad men skulk and to the road across the way. Zoom in on a long, fenced area teeming with activity.

“There,” says the hard-boiled cop, spitting out the soggy remains of a toothpick. “Right there.”

He is pointing to the newly opened dog park outside the animal shelter. As it is every day, the park is filled with dogs of all shapes and sizes. These are beasts great and small just waiting to be deputized. Chows with funny, pinched faces; poodles with bows on their tails; basset hounds that always look depressed; and even a Chihuahua or two, in case translation services are needed.

The dog park is a feel-good movie, possibly sponsored by Purina, just waiting to happen. For what chance does a tribe of convicts face against an army of dogs with names like Lucky and Lady, Princess and Precious (it rubs the lotion on its skin), Coco and Carmella?

I met a dog named Rambo over there one recent afternoon and a Lhasa apso I know has been using the space to practice kung fu (from the Latin, apso for “ass” and Lhasa, “to kick.”) Tell me these boot-sized dogs aren’t ready – nay, itching! – for action.

I love the dog park. And not just because of the potential for a lucrative film opportunity. I love that people from diverse backgrounds are out there mingling in a place that’s not Facebook. I love that the canine equivalent of a fist bump is a butt sniff. I love thinking about what would happen if a cat happened into the park. And I love that dogs who have never met before will get down and play like old friends if given the opportunity.

To me, the introduction of a dog park here is like squeezable ketchup bottles: Why didn’t someone think of it a long time ago?

But anyway, back to my thrilling dog drama which will not star John Travolta because he never returns my letters: Doesn’t it sound like a movie Animal Planet would put on a loop and leave running for a year? Or, add some human drama through the likes of Valerie Bertinelli and Gerald McRaney and boom! Lifetime Movie Channel!

It will be a film with something for everyone (except mailmen; they’ll hate it). Men will watch it because there will be bad guys. There will be fistfights and probably a bit of gore in the form of dog-bite wounds.

The ladies will watch it because it will feature heartwarming crap about dog owners coming together for the good of society. Enemies becoming friends, self-discoveries, sacrifices, etc. All that stuff I typically nap through.

Jonathan LaBonte (director of the Androscoggin Land Trust) will watch it because it features forested land and he’s always looking for new trails to blaze. Animal Control Officer Wendell Strout will watch it because it stars dogs and Wendell Strout communicates with dogs. Only dogs, really.

It will be a blockbuster. You know it, I know it, the dogs know it. Don’t be surprised if you wander over to the park and see them out there pumping iron like prisoners in the yard. All dogs want to be movie stars.

Never mind that if the gates were opened and the dogs were free to run, most would spend their day running in circles and “fist-bumping” each other. Never mind that Animal Planet has turned down my last 60 movie pitches and Valerie Bertinelli still has that restraining order out.

“Going to the Dogs” is still a great idea. And even if it’s not, the creation of the dog park on Strawberry Avenue was. I’d be so bold as to suggest it was one of the wisest ideas we’ve had around here in a long time, and it didn’t involve 8,000 tons of concrete and an equal number of planning meetings. It’s a concept that doesn’t require long, expensive studies to measure its effectiveness. Just drive by any given day and its success is on display in the form of strangers lounging in the shade and their dogs running around and showing off like budding stars at a casting call. The dog park was a great idea, like luggage on wheels, that should have come around long ago.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off for a flea dunk. I don’t want to be chewing on my backside when fame comes calling.

Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer. You can “fist bump” virtually at [email protected]


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