This is the weekend. Alabama's and Auburn's football teams swing into action. Thank goodness, football season is here again at last.
And though both of the state's premiere teams are on the road (Alabama plays Wisconsin in Arlington, Texas, while Auburn goes against Louisville in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta), tailgating is part of the football culture in Alabama and many other states.
Even smaller schools like Jacksonville State University, Troy University, the University of South Alabama, Miles College, Samford University, the University of North Alabama, Alabama A&M and Alabama State, among others, have their tailgating fans.
So what to do with the dog while you're off celebrating your favorite team's game day with barbecue, drinks and such on the back gate of your Ford F-150?
Take the pup with you!
There are right ways and wrong ways to tailgate with your dog. Do it the right way, says our friend Merritt Milam, founder and owner of Homewood's Wags 'N Whiskers Comprehensive Pet Care.
First of all, Milam says, make sure the campus you're heading to tailgate is dog-friendly. You don't want to haul your animal some distance, then learn that dogs aren't welcomed. For me, if my dogs aren't welcomed, neither am I.
And know your dog, Milam says.
"Understand your dog's personality and that they'll be OK with people," Milam says. "If you have a shy or timid dog, think that through. Your shy or timid dog might not like that."
Now, of course, that means you can't go to the game. Dogs won't be allowed inside the stadium. But lots of fans tailgate through the game, with the radio on or a portable television. In that case, your dog can add to the pleasure of tailgating.
However, never, ever even think of leaving your dog in the truck or car while you go watch the game. It's a warning that should be unnecessary, but dogs are often left in cars while their humans shop or run some other errand. We see the sad reports all the time. The temperatures in a car, even with a window partially rolled down, get very much higher than the temperature outside. A dog can die in minutes of heat stroke.
Have an emergency first aid kit for your dog, Milam says. That's a precaution if your dog cuts himself.
And while you probably know exactly what you want for your own tailgate, if you're taking your dog, plan for him as well. Include food, water, plastic bags (for you know what) and even a favorite toy.
If it is hot, keep your dog off the asphalt. If you put the back of your hand on the asphalt and can't keep it there, your dog's paws will burn, too.
"If it's too hot for your hand, it's too hot for their paws," says Milam.
And watch out for glass. You don't want your dog to cut himself.
Always, 100 percent of the time, keep your dog leashed. There probably will be other dogs (and lots of people) around, too, so you don't want your dog getting away from you.
"And safety-wise, you shouldn't give your dogs any kind of human food," Milam says. "Or any kind of bone. I would not suggest any kind of bone."
You can get special treats for your dog. Whole Dog Market in Homewood and other pet supply stores sell dog cookies and ice cream. That's a good special treat.
And remember, when you approach another dog with your dog, let the two meet and greet gently. Keep control of your dog.
Don't let your dog steal food from other people tailgating nearby, and if your dog jumps on a grill for a hamburger or hot dog, he's going to get burned.
Tailgating is fun, and your dog can elevate the experience for the family. But be smart about it. You want to have fun -- and so does your dog. "You don't want them to have a bad experience," Milam says.
Also, Wags is encouraging owners to take a picture while they are at the game and their pets are at Wags. We want them to tag @WagsHomewood or #TakeMeToWags and post the picture to Facebook or Instagram to receive $10 off of boarding for that Saturday night. Owners can receive an additional $5 off of that day’s daycare if they drop off their pet in gameday attire.
During the football season, there will be morning pickups on Sundays from 9 to 10 a.m. as well as from 5 to 6:30 p.m.