Staying Occupied During Unusual Times

Who needs movies and television when you can watch people?  As a veteran traveler, I have always enjoyed watching people at the airport.  Now that airport travel is out of the question, I have taken to watching people walk their dogs.  There are a lot of dogs in Colorado.

On Long Island, I remember only three dog owners on our entire block.  Here I believe there are only three of us on the block who do not own dogs.  I’ve gone running every day since the COVID-19 crisis began.  My routine has been simple and yes, boring.  I get up and fix breakfast, then I look at the news, which includes seeing how many hundreds of thousands of dollars I have lost in my 403b account.  Then I work for a few hours on my book.  The first draft is about 55 or 60 percent done.  Then I head out for a long run.

Since people are working from home, there are a lot of folks out walking and running.  Two-thirds of them are with their dogs.  It is the interaction between owner and dog that has gotten my attention.  Yesterday I ran past the Lyons, Colorado dog park, and saw more people than are there on a summer Sunday.  On the way to and from the dog park, there were dozens more.

Contrary to popular opinion, I do not think most people look like their dogs.  Skinny people have fat dogs and skinny dogs have fat people.  Runners have lazy dogs and energetic dogs have lazy owners.  What does seem consistent is that most people know little to nothing about training their dog.  Dogs are pack animals, very aware of rank in the pack.  I’ve seen a lot of dogs that believe they are the alpha of the family and act accordingly.  As the dog lunges at you when you run past, the owner shrugs as if to say, “What can I do?”  Okay, I see who is in charge.

People here in Colorado have more of a tendency to allow their dogs off leash than what I see back east.  You are running down the road and a giant dog runs toward you and jumps up with his feet on your crotch and the owner says, “It’s okay, he’s friendly.”  Actually, I did not ask if your dog is friendly.  I do not care if your dog is friendly.  I do care that your dog’s feet are on my crotch.

Though I have owned a golden retriever and a golden/border collie mix, I would not classify myself as a dog lover.  I am a dog tolerator.  I will pay some attention to your dog, depending on my mood and the dog’s mood.  Lilly, the golden/border collie mix, was different.  (She is the dog pictured above.  And yes, we spelled her name with two ls.)  She was the best dog in the history of mankind and when she died nine years ago, I vowed I was done.  I have kept my word.

One of my best friends has a beagle mix who is quite well-trained, but then again, she is a beagle, and well-trained for a beagle looks a bit different than well-trained for any other breed.   I run with the beagle occasionally, and she is quite well-behaved, even when she is off leash.  Well, most of the time when she is off leash.  If she finds a dead baby snake in the grass, all bets are off.  She will roll her entire body over it, then put it in her mouth and carry it around, looking like she has a handlebar mustache.  If you have a treat and call her, she might come back, or she might not.  If she does return, she has a dilemma.  To take the treat, she would have to drop the snake.  The treat wins – and the run continues.  Much as I say I only tolerate dogs, I have developed a certain affection for the beagle.

While I was out running yesterday, I was thinking about the kind of a person that uses a dog leash that extends a quarter mile.  These people are not runners, of that I can assure you.  Runners spend half their running lives avoiding extended dog leashes that cross the sidewalk and two-thirds of the street.  As you run by, adding 100 yards to your run just to get around the leash, the dog starts chasing you and you find out the leash is actually a half mile long.  The better owner offers a quick “I’m sorry.”  The jerk owner is angry you would dare to run in his dog’s space, which with the retractable leash, is about two square miles.

It really is amazing how badly most dogs are trained.  I’ve trained two dogs.  It’s not all that hard.  But then again, one was a golden and the other a golden mix.  They are pretty easy to train.  I figure people are about as good at training their dogs as they are at giving their children appropriate boundaries.  Watching people with their dogs yesterday did not bode well for the behavior of any children they might choose to have.

I love when I’m running, and someone sees me coming and looks down at their dog and gives a single command and the dog immediately obeys.  I want to stop and fall at the owner’s feet and call them blessed.  I figure they also have well-behaved kids.

I must admit, I do prefer the Long Island dog-to-family ratio to the Colorado dog-to-family ratio.  I mean, there are a lot of barking dogs in our neighborhood.  A lot. Fortunately, there is only one house next to mine, and that neighbor does not own a dog.  I have thought about paying them to make sure it stays that way.

And so it goes.