It’s not often that we get to try on a whole new persona for size, but I had that opportunity last week, through a series of circumstances that I don’t have space to elaborate on here. The persona I got to experiment with was “dog owner.”
Now, those of you who know me well may already be raising your eyebrows because you know that, unlike about 90% of valley residents, I am not much of a dog person. I don’t dislike dogs; I just am almost pathologically disinterested in them. So stiff and unnatural am I when I interact with dogs that it would be comical if it weren’t so pathetic.
The dog I got to spend three hours alone with last week was a beautiful Husky of some sort, young and strong, trained, but still a free thinker. I’d done a little work with sled dogs during my Outward Bound days in Maine, but I had forgotten how innate is their urge to pull until I nearly went airborne the moment the dog and I set out on our walk.
Doubling up my grip on the leash and leaning backward as if waterskiing, the heels of my sandals laying a patch of shoe rubber on the sidewalk, I followed the dog down to the Twisp Park, pausing only when he lifted his leg on a porch post in downtown Twisp and then rehydrated himself by drinking out of another dog’s water bowl outside a store. For once, I was glad for the anonymity of my face mask.
“What would a real dog owner do in such situations?” I asked myself. The dog provided the answer by pulling harder, causing me to upgrade my trot to a gallop. “Flee the scene” was evidently the proper response, and we executed it expertly.
At the Twisp Park we passed the time luxuriously, as dog owners apparently do: enjoying the spring sunshine (me), rolling around in the river (him), and sniffing dozens of items of interest (let’s see if you can guess which one of us this was — although I’ll admit to being sorely tempted by the abandoned half-full pack of Red Vines).
Had I been in friend-seeking mode, the dog would have been not only an ice-breaker, but a secret weapon. Other people were in the park with their dogs, throwing sticks or Frisbees, walking along the cobbled riverbank, or just lying in the shade. I could see how easily one could strike up a conversation with a fellow dog owner, whereas the dogless friend-hunter might simply come across as creepy.
The dog’s beauty was noted several times and I basked in the reflected glory. One generous soul even commented on how well the dog — an impressive beast with silvery gray hair — and I matched each other. “Is this the goal of every dog owner?” I wondered. “To match their canine?” If so, my friends with Chiweenies and Labradoodles, we need to talk.