Meetup.com, founded in 2002, wasn’t created just for canines. But curiously, pugs played a role. According to techno-lore, the platform’s founders concocted a made-up event, International Pug Lovers Meetup Day, to test market the site. Pug lovers (and folks who merely found the idea hilarious) rallied to the cause, garnering press and visibility. Meetup.com gained a foothold in popular culture as the tool that propelled political candidate Howard Dean into the national arena in 2004, but pugs were never forgotten. Today some 40,425 people are subscribed to 174 Pug Meetup Groups in 148 cities in five countries around the world. (The San Diego Pug Club, with more than 1,000 members, is the largest.)
So what exactly is a Meetup? Think of it as a face-to-face activity that’s organized online. Each Meetup group has a founder or organizer who puts activities on the calendar. Members RSVP, show up, participate and, if they like, post comments to the group afterward.
Some groups require members to join and be vetted before participating in a scheduled activity, while others post their Meetup information online and take a “just show up” approach. To explore the canine-related possibilities in your area, go to Meetup.com and type “dog” and zipcode in the “Find a Meetup Group” search fields. You’ll be amazed by what comes up!
Some dog Meetups focus on a particular interest or breed, while some of the larger ones offer quite a range, from rescue to picnics to elegant evenings out. Some are extremely specific. Female Small Dog Owners 18-30ish in the East Bay, for example, is a social group for young women who own small dogs, while Bay Area Startup & Dog Enthusiasts organizes monthly get-togethers for overtaxed techie types who don’t get much time out of the office.
Off-leash hiking in East Bay Regional Parks has inspired many a Meetup group, among them Tri-Valley Active Dogs, Oakland Dog Hikers and Wag N Trails, a friendly, responsible crew that also welcomes dog-less hikers.Outlaw Dogwalkers, based in Marin, even organizes dog-friendly weekend camping trips to national forest destinations.
If you like socializing with dog owners who share enthusiasm for a particular gene pool, you’ll find lots of company in folks who share your enthusiasm forLabradoodles, beagles, pit bulls and just about any other breed you can name. More . . .
Who hasn’t gazed out at Lake Tahoe and wished there was a really good beach where dogs could run, leap, swim, dock dive and otherwise play to their hearts’ content? Well, there is. For two or three weeks each summer, Camp Winnaribbun, on Tahoe’s southeast shore, opens its gates to what only can be described as doggie paradise.
Ever seen a Chihuahua swim or a dachshund engaged in the sport of lure coursing? You might at Camp W, where on any given day dozens of leash-less, happy pups share a 33-acre, Ponderosa pine-shaded property that functions as a 4-H camp when it’s not gone to the dogs.
This summer will be the 18th season for top trainer Lory Kohlmoos to welcome dogs and their people to this very special place. Activities include daily dog hikes, playtime on the beach, and instruction in everything from obedience and agility to herding, tracking, flyball, nose work, dog psychology, even doggie dance. There’s time, too, for evening campfires and languid naps on the lawn. It’s no wonder more than 80 percent of campers come back year after year.
Camp sessions in 2012 are set for Aug. 26-Sept. 1 and Sept. 2-8. Check out photographer Anne Williams’ Camp W galleries to get a feel for the woofy good times had by all. Photo: Anne Chadwick WIlliams