Their paws scraping the top of a picnic table in an enduring fight for attention, two poodles - better known as the divas of the dog park - stop to bask in the Sunday afternoon sun.
Their owners call them the Curly Girlies, a name that fits their dog-park profession: “table dancing.”
Ellie, a six-year-old golden doodle, takes the lead as Dijon, a three-year-old silver poodle, follows in her shadow, towering over the other dogs as she plants a smooch on her human, Emily Jamison.
But Ellie knows that every leading lady needs a partner, and hers is “Sir William.”
Weaving between the long limbs of his two lady friends, the short, stocky rescue dog also goes by several names.
Owner Katie Reich, though, prefers to call her dog Will, which is short for “Will To Love.”
“A lot of people will come up to me and say, ‘There’s something different about your dog,’” Reich said. “…I had a woman one time tell me he had almost-human eyes.”
In his 13-year life, it is possible that Will has seen more than most humans.
Eleven and a half years ago, Hurricane Katrina ravaged towns across the South. According to the ASPCA, over 250,000 dogs and cats were misplaced by the storm.
Will was one of them, Reich suspects.
A few days after Katrina’s winds downed local power lines and trees, Reich stopped at Hooligans’ restaurant for a bite to eat.
Across the street, she noticed a shaking and emaciated Will, oozing from skin sores. Will crossed University Boulevard toward the restaurant and ended up eating everything off Reich’s plate – except the hummus.
“I wasn’t up for a dog,” said Reich, who left after the encounter, only to return a couple hours later and find Will laying on the concrete where she’d left him.
“I said, ‘Do you want to come home with me?’” she said, starting to laugh; Will could perceive her guilt.
“And he looked at me like, ‘Well, that’s not much of an invitation.’”
Reich spent months deworming Will, eventually seeking out the expertise of Dr. Mary Battistella at Kowaliga Whole Health Pet Care, who spent years following up with acupuncture and chiropractic treatments.
Thirteen years later, a healthy Will accompanies Reich, (or his “significant other,” as she calls him), as he makes his daily appearance at Will May Dog Park; he has earned the Curly Girlies’ approval.
“He’s a social butterfly,” Reich said. “He has shown me… what real love is.”