Last Wednesday, I saw a medium-sized brown dog do a pretty amazing thing. I was somewhere near the middle of the pack as we headed up Greenough Drive. I don’t know what it is about the dogs along that street — if they’re just unaccustomed to pedestrian traffic or what — but you’d think we were all dressed in bacon. They go absolutely nuts. I was coming up on a split-level with a big, green yard. Behind a chain-link fence, two dogs sprinted back and forth, barking like their lives depended on it. I didn’t register the breeds, since I wasn’t paying much attention and have never been real good at it anyway. One of them was white, the other was brown, and both were roughly the size of a piece of carry-on luggage.
Suddenly, the brown dog executed a move that I’ve previously only seen in the Street Fighter II video game, a sort of bouncing leap that brought him briefly into contact with the side of the house before kicking off of it and somersaulting over the seven-foot fence. This happened just as I was passing the yard. And then he was out on the lawn, staring at me at me and my imaginary bacon shorts like a desperate convict who knows his time on the lam will be brief.
I think I said, “Oh shit.” Probably rather loudly, since my iPod’s usually cranked to 11 and I have little concept of the volume of my voice. But it happened right as I passed! I’m the kind of guy who gets excited when a streetlight goes on or off at the exact moment I walk underneath it. I assume, naturally, that the event had something to do with me. So surely there was some reason this dog vaulted the fence just as I came into his sight.
Then I remembered how the wolves in Yellowstone peruse the elk herds at chow time, scanning the whole group before identifying the weakest link, and only then taking off in pursuit. That was it, I thought. I’d skipped running the previous Friday to go to a reading and reception, skipped it Saturday to nurse a hangover, then skipped it Sunday on the pretense that it was Easter (though I actually spent the morning alone in my apartment, drinking coffee and reading magazines). This brown dog knew I’d schlepped off over the weekend, and now he’d picked me out as the weakest link I was about to be culled.
Turns out, though, that the dog was less like an escaped convict and more like a wimpy kid who sneaks off the playground at recess — suddenly liberated, but totally clueless as to how to handle it. The poor pooch just ran back and forth in place, barking at his partner on the other of the fence, oblivious to me and the other runners passing by.
It was a wake-up call all the same, though. A reminder to get back on my game. When the time came for us half-marathoners to peel off from the marathon crowd, I opted to follow the longer route instead. Turns out blending in with the marathoners is kind of easy — you just have to wear a look of steely determination all the time. It’s tough to get it across with an emoticon, but it would be something like: :>| And those extra few miles were just what I needed. I was already feeling more confident as we ran the last mile down Monroe Street, and sure enough, the neighborhood dogs didn’t even look up.