"Dog Tale #1"

It's Saturday and I'm out for a ride - first one in a few weeks, as I'd delivered a blow to my hip which had it swollen beyond belief. Things had finally returned to merely "puffy", and my legs itched to turn circles. But, it soon became apparent that I'd forgotten how to get out and get going - one of those days when I just couldn't seem to get dressed, leave the house and ride the bicycle - everything from brakes to tires to finding a clean pair of shorts seemed to conspire against me. No matter what step of preparation I took, obstacles appeared to slow my departure.

Quickly upon rolling away, the frustrations began to ebb, as the restorative motions of pedaling combined with the beauty of the scenery. I rolled around the point, with the sun dancing off the north bay and began to enjoy the ride.

Looping back into town, the traffic seemed reasonably intense, though it might have had something to do with the time. It was late morning - near noon - and usually, by that time of day, I was home eating a hearty breakfast rather than on the beginning edge of the ride. But, the car quantity was impressive, as was the number of bikes on racks heading for the trails - it seemed as busy as a Friday commute, but a bit more hectic as I rode up the three lane artery which cut from San Rafael to San Anselmo.

I saw the dog a ways up the road as another car whistled past my left shoulder. A big, lanky black lab led by his nose and the need to mark as much territory as possible. He loped quickly towards me, veered out into the roadway and then returned to the sidewalk. No owner seemed near, and no loose dog should be that close to that much traffic. I put a little back pressure on the pedals to slow and see if someone would suddenly appear behind him, but there was no such luck. I stopped, and pulled into an emtpy parking space as he came close. Calling with my "excited-and-happy-and-I-probably-have-a-cookie-for-you" voice made him look up and veer away as he speeded up and went past me. Behind me on the sidewalk, a guy pushed a stroller towards me, and as the dog headed for him I called, "Can you try to grab that dog?"

The guy made a half-hearted lean towards the lab, who easily hopped outside his outstretched arm and continued away. Then he looked back at me and smiled, saying, "No way! Not gonna catch that dog!" I steamed silently and hopped back onto my bike, trying to reduce the distance to the lab without spooking him into traffic. I made up my mind that I would catch that dog.

Another scent had caught his fancy, and it steered him away from the traffic into a parking lot. I went slightly past him and then positioned myself to cut down his escape angle. He trotted further into the lot. At the far end was a small set of steps which led up to a residential road. As he went up there, I dropped my bike and clip-clopped up the steps on my road cleats. This time I dropped my glasses down as well, so he could see my eyes. I did the happy voice hail again, and quickly caught his eye and looked down and away, curling my upper body a bit to entice him to approach. It worked, and he padded up to me. I kept talking to him as he came close and patted his shoulders, working my hand up to his collar, which I then took hold of.

He was relaxed, and clearly a bit thirsty. Where ever he had come from, he'd run for bit before I saw him. He also was a reasonbly big and lanky lab. I led him back down to my bike and found he was very comfortable drinking from a bottle. However, he didn't have any name tags on him; just a county dog license. I fished out the cell phone and called the Animal Services number. They looked him up and told me his name and his owner's phone number. We further bonded when I began using his name, but I was a bit surprised by the number. The prefix put him up in Novato - more than 10 miles away. When I dialed that, a machine answered. In speaking with Animal Services, they didn't have any officers available for several. So, I found myself attached at the collar to a reasonably energetic unneutered male lab out for a romp. Not quite the ride I'd envisioned.

At times like that, I start thinking of all the variables which had to occur so that I ended up where I was doing what I was doing. If I hadn't messed up the first brake adjustment, or had found my shorts quicker, or hadn't been slowed by the exact succession of stop lights, I would have probably not seen this dog when I did. In a curious way, it seemed ordained to be my responsibility.

I tried to call home, but my wife had been planning a long-overdue "catch-up" call with her sister, and the line was busy. After a few repeats, and a number of semi-skating trips to visit new bushes with my new best friend, I tried to get the operator to break through. In the old days of pay phones and land lines, this was reasonably easy. But, the operator informed me, they were now unable to break through from a cell phone, unless I paid for it with my credit card. Which of course I didn't have with me.

Me and the dog again. A little more water to curry favor with him. A couple trips around to share the water with various bushes. Finally, I decided that my wife wasn't going to finish her call quickly, the Animal Services officer wasn't going to miraculously appear, and the owner wouldn't be listening to his messages anytime soon. So, I decided that I would enlist the help of my dad, and after about 15 minutes and a couple more "where are you now?" phone calls, the bulk of his SUV appeared and rolled through the lot.

The dog hopped right in the back, happy to meet another person who magically knew his name. I stowed the bike into the rear seat and slid in front. We made a special delivery to the Humane Society, where person with whom I'd been speaking on the phone accepted the new inmate and was expretmely appreciative that I managed to wrangle him there.

I thanked my father profusely, and ended up riding the short distance home. Although I'd planned for a few hours of riding, I slid home with less than an hour. But, I wouldn't have traded it for anything.





updated: January 21, 2006






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