Columns

2007.03.14 Man vs. dog

on . Posted in By The Way

By DAVID GREEN

I saw a headline among a list of news highlights earlier this morning that caught my eye: “Dog saved by mouth-to-snout revival.”

I just now went back for details and was appalled that it’s no longer there. It’s been bumped from the list of important stories by such trivialities as “Chinese lawmaker wants Starbucks ousted,” “Stephen King ventures into comic books,” and “Busta Rhymes busted from N.Y.C. movie shoot.”

I finally found it way down the list. In Omaha, a 10-month-old English bulldog jumped into a lake to chase ducks without thinking that perhaps the water temperature would be chilly.

When her loving owner pulled her from the water, she was unresponsive and her paws and face were blue.

Putting snout into mouth, the owner breathed her back to life, stating later that he and Lucy are best buddies. Well, if they weren’t before, they surely are now.

As I was driving through the countryside on my way to the state wrestling tournament Thursday, I spotted a dog basking on a farm house porch and it brought back memories, none of them pleasant. I thought about rural dog encounters while riding a bicycle.

The first one that always pops into mind occurred perhaps in 1971. I was home from college and working at Morenci Rubber Products for the summer. The place was locally known as the Rubber Factory and by some of those who worked there as the Rubber Dump.

I could be improperly mixing up a lot of hazy memories, but I think that was the summer when I was somehow talked into driving through the countryside with some colleagues to collect dead-on-road raccoons and opossums to place under someone’s porch. Nothing I’m too proud of, but I had to become one of the guys.

I think John Hanawalt worked there that summer—an acquaintance a few years earlier from Boy Scouts—and he planned to camp in Lost Nations one weekend near a place we once camped with Scoutmaster John Hay.

I decided to bicycle into Hillsdale County to look up John, and somewhere along the way I encountered a dog.

I often spotted a dog early, built up speed and out-raced the pest. That worked on a paved road, but this one was dirt and there was no such thing as building up speed.

It was a good-sized German shepherd and it just waited for me with a smile at the edge of the road.

When I arrived, it came out and started a little nipping action and I hopped off my bike in order to get my leg out of chewing range.

So there we were, I on one side of the bike, the dog on the other, as we walked on down the road.

I don’t remember how it ended. Maybe the dog was called by the owner, maybe it lost interest since there was no chase, maybe it could tell I wasn’t worth the bother. I was wondering if Hanawalt was worth the bother.

I must have surmised from this incident that dogs really enjoy the chase. In the future, I employed other techniques. I built up speed, but when I got close, I stopped pedaling. With the feet no longer spinning around, perhaps the sense of a good chase would disappear. I think it worked with several dogs over the ensuing years.

I also brought another practice into play. When I got near the house and the chase was about to begin, I would start whistling as if the owner were calling the mutt home.

I’m sure that was successful, too, although it drove my riding companion, John Robertson, nuts on our tour of the Canadian Maritimes. John was actually knocked over by a dog on that trip. That’s what he gets for having a better, faster bicycle. I was trailing behind and watched the incident from down the road.

At the start of this column I mentioned spotting a rural dog Thursday. It led me to think about a new concept in reality TV.

You drive along a country road until you spot a dog. You stop, get out and start taunting. You do whatever it takes to rack up a good score—do laps around the car with the dog at your heels, jump onto the roof, roll underneath (now you’re talking big points).

I have no interest in serving as a contestant on this show, but I’ll work with a producer to get it underway. Maybe I’ll even stand down the road a ways whistling.

    – March 14, 2007 

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