Tuatha, possibly disembodying, in the pet dragon contest

How do I end up in a pet dragon contest when I’m supposed to be coteaching a consensus workshop in Philadelphia? My life is like a road movie, just a string of random randomness.

Having postponed a workshop in Philadelphia, C.T. and I found ourselves with time to volunteer for and attend the St. George Day Festival here on Staten Island, our new home for a while. The event is organized by our friends at Every Thing Goes Book Cafe and Neighborhood Stage. The cafe is one of several businesses run by Ganas Community. We had been looking for time to plug in. So, with our schedule cleared and despite predictions of rain, plug we did.

After our own battles with a printer dragon that wouldn’t give us the brochures we wanted, we hiked over to Ganas to help transport food. Once at the festival site, we were assigned the art project of reinforcing the bent fire and scales on a cardboard dragon for the parade. I can’t say that we improved it much, but the dragon did march and we enjoyed seeing our small work in the show.

We helped staff the local authors table. It was interesting to see the range of books and listen to the authors read. Our own books were a little out of place there. But soon we got an invitation from the Green Bus folks, who knew of C.T.’s work with Food Not Bombs. So our materials moved. C.T. had a great time swapping stories with activists from Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Staten Island, Food Not Bombs and more.

Around that time, we found out that there was to be a pet dragon contest. As it turns out, we have a pet dragon, at least part time, specifically when it thunders.

Our sheltie Tuatha is powerful afraid of storms. And fireworks…and any other stimulation that dogs of the ages have ever tried to fear. I saw the ads for the so called “thundershirts,” and I was intrigued but skeptical, especially because the marketing included lots of fake blogs pretending to be independent testimonials.

The ads/blogs implied that the science behind the thundershirt is that it presses on certain acupuncture points on the dog, calming and making her/him feel more secure.  Well, that sounds reasonable, but I couldn’t quite justify the expense without knowing it would work on my particular paranoid pup.

That’s when I remembered that Tuatha has a huge collection of Halloween costumes. I knew right away that our favorite, the dragon, would fit snugly in the way that the thundershirts in the pictures do. I tried it the very next time it stormed.

It worked. I would like to tell you a story of false advertising and how they’re just stealing your money. Well, if you have a drawer full of doggie Halloween costumes, it might be the case that you don’t need to give the thundershirt people your money. Don’t ask me how it works. C.T. and I have this whole theory about “contingent behavior” that I won’t go into here.

But the short story is that C.T. went home and got our pet dragon in time for the contest. Because the start time was delayed repeatedly, Tuatha the dragon and I walked all around the festival. He was very popular. We got to meet another contestant, Shakespeare, and his humans who were waiting in the wings. I learned more pointers than I will ever be able to blog about how to win dog contests and where to find them. It turns out the competition was professional!

Well, this was only our second contest, the first being a parade in New Freedom, Pennsylvania. We found out about that one the day of. And now the pro’s had a leg up on us again! Shakespeare’s humans velcroed him into a much more elaborate dragon costume, one that didn’t look like he’d worn it for years of trick or treating, hours of playground wrestling and many episodes of thunder.

But, luck was on our side. It turned out that Shakespeare and Tuatha were the only entrants. And after applause voting (which I’m pretty sure went in Tuatha’s favor) the emcee declared a tie for first place! Fair enough. We got to win!

In other news of the day, we only sold one book but we met many interesting neighbors who would like to learn consensus. And we reconnected with old friends of Ganas Community. We took in interesting poetry and loads of fine local music. And the organizers fed the volunteers a wonderful spread, so we economized there. Very helpful in our line of work.

And we returned to our host’s home with bragging rights—We won the pet dragon contest. What? No state and nationals to follow? That suits Tuatha fine. He loves the idea of going with us when we leave home, but he’s not always thrilled at the places we go. Costumed crowds are no fetish of his.


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