laura packardWhat happens in the dog park stays in the dog park. So the saying goes.

   Not so much in my neighborhood. Here, dogs are akin to the precious cows that roam the streets of India. Only ours are on retractable leashes wearing trendy T-shirts and bright spring-colored Ralph Lauren raincoats as soon as it starts to drizzle.

   Here, dogs are adored, adorned, elevated and celebrated. We may not know each other’s names, occupations or hobbies, but we can be identified by the fur, approximate age, likes, dislikes, disabilities and abilities of our fine, furry family members.

   “Molly’s dad is at the door.” Molly* is a 9-month-old black Lab who eats wasps, slurps out of the community water spout, and loves golf cart rides and deer dung.

   “I just ran into Hunter’s mom at the post office. She says, ‘Hi.’” Hunter* is a 23-pound Norfolk terrier who wears a diaper and is on a strict daily diet of half a carrot, a third cup of kibble and a shot of insulin. He absolutely loves Dateline, his monthly dental chew and scary movies — but is terrified of thunderstorms. Go figure.

   “Ike’s mom wants you to call her.” Ike*, short for General Dwight D. Eisenhower, is an 11-year-old, 40-pound Bichon Frise. He is large for the breed, but the vet says his BMI is a-okay. Though Ike has a tough time walking up stairs, it doesn’t stop him from stealing newspapers, flip flops, car keys and cat poo.

   I can only imagine what they say about us.

   “There goes Atlas and Jules’ mom. I think she may be a writer. Why else would she wander around outside in her bathrobe?”

   Atlas is known around the neighborhood as the Rat terrier who pees on other dogs’ heads. He struts his stuff but cowers at falling leaves. He barks at crickets, pine straw, unoccupied vehicles and sudden gusts of wind. Jules is the Jack Russell with poor social skills. She is a grass eater, a flower bed poo-er (yes, we pick it up) and squirrel chaser. Chef, the Chiweenie, is one of those “designer breeds” who never wears the same thing twice in one week and has a licking problem. You can spot us strolling down the street a mile away; a cacophony of howls and growls amongst tangled leashes, swinging mutt mitts, loud chatter and chaos.

   Back to dog parks — we actually have one. It is THE place to see, be seen, meet, greet, run, rumble, tumble, cocktail and generally hang out. So you can only imagine when a gigantic hole the size of a small meteor crater appeared under the oak tree, everyone was up in arms — as in throwing up their arms and saying it sure wasn’t their dog because rule No. 6 clearly states no digging allowed — holes cause canine injuries. And to make everything even more daunting, No. 12 outlines dogs with poor behavior can be banned indefinitely and No. 44 spells out that the owner is legally and financially responsible for damages.

   My friend Alicia’s Rottweiler has a bionic knee, so I know how much they cost. I don’t want to pay to replace one for a neighborhood dog who fell in a hole. I want to send my kids to college.

   It’s been almost a year and no one has fessed up, though it is still a topic of discussion around the dog park at Pinot time. I don’t worry about anyone thinking one of mine could be the culprit because all three of them can fit inside of the darn hole and still have room to catch a Frisbee. We stay clear anyway because Rat terriers are bred to dig. We certainly don’t want to encourage any whispers.


   Just saw that the hole has recently been filled. Another one has been dug up 3 and a half feet north and  2 degrees west.

   There is an old saying out there that good fences make good neighbors. This may be true, but there is one thing no one can deny. Especially where we live.

   Dogs make good neighbors, too.

* Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Writer’s Note:
I LOVE my neighborhood. It is one of the coolest, most friendly, all around entertaining and breathtakingly beautiful places on earth to live. You can come to Habersham anytime you want to shop, eat and visit at the marketplace. But if you really want to see what Lowcountry hospitality ’round here is all about then join us for Bottles & Barrels, A Southern Living Inspired Event. It’s coming up soon – the weekend of April 8-9. Advance tickets are available at So come on over and join us for a grand old time! My dogs will be hanging at home. Promise!