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Dogs can teach lessons about getting along
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At a time when political commentators bemoan sharp divisions in our culture and the words of Rodney King resonate more than ever — "Can’t we all just get along?" — I witnessed something last week that’s worth sharing.

The Leawood Doggie Dunk, at the Leawood City Pool.

There it was, a gathering of the most diverse species ever collected in a baby pool. Big dogs, purse dogs and tweeners. The hunting, herding and sporting breeds mingling with the show dogs, those poodle breeds and even some that looked like pit bulls. Everyone was having a good time, meeting, greeting, sniffing and smelling.

It reminded me of Sullivan’s restaurant – where recently divorced ladies hand out – except no cleavage or Bo-tox. It was just dogs experiencing one of the county’s finest pools and no one needing sunscreen, pull-ups, goggles or beach towels. Just shake and dry. And repeat.

This meet-and-greet had a distinct international flavor as well. Like a Canine United Nations, you had the Germans, the Irish, the Swedes, Scots, Brits, Newfoundlanders, and terriers coming together. Pets who led a solitary existence now had a chance to find those elusive 29 dimensions of compatibility — provided a ball, Frisbee or bone was involved.

And in the middle of it all was Bernie Keenan, a combination of McDreamy and McSteamy, fresh from her cut and color at the kennel just two days prior.

She was elegant and composed among the frenzy. It was a good two years since she last saw this many dogs in one place. For her, it was, admittedly, sensory overload — maybe 100 dogs in a clinical trial for Red Bull. She got some attention from dogs who never read Miss Manners or had a flea bath and I quickly shooed away the runts and mutts. This was no time for a bad relationship with someone without adequate proof of shots. Bernie has one BFF and that wasn’t changing.

But since most dogs were having the run of the place, eventually I removed her leash. There were groups of dogs running around on the grass outside the pool. There were dogs standing on the edge mesmerized at what they were seeing and dogs jumping in the deep end. Immediately, Bernie took off, running, pausing, staring at all the commotion. She wasn’t going far. But she was definitely going.

In the mix of dogs, there were a few show-offs. The Labrador and golden retrievers were getting a bit pushy with the tennis ball and pretending to be on America’s Got Talent. Splashing in the water, responding to commands, making a scene. Bernie was in awe. She ran back and forth along the deep pool while the big dogs did their thing. She let loose that excited bark; her brain was moving, "Oh boy oh boy oh boy." But what to do? Where to go?

Eventually I decided she needed help. I took a Frisbee and tossed it about two feet from the edge in the deep end. She ran to the pool rim and froze. Four paws perched on the edge of concrete that was roughly an inch in diameter. With a slight push, she went in. Whatever part of the dog’s brain controls the dog paddle woke up from a deep, deep sleep and never quite functioned at 100 percent. She paddled to the edge and I pulled her up, laughing hysterically. The pool, she decided, was best left for others.

After about 45 minutes, we returned to the car. She dropped her head to the seat and closed her eyes. Gassed and crashed. What a blast.

Matt Keenan’s book, Call Me Dad, Not Dude, is available at Borders and online at Write to Matt at his Web site,