One Night in Dog Heaven

In some parts of the world there are laws on the books that dictate humans walk their dogs a minimum of three times a day. The sad human fact is, however, that sometimes you fail your dog. Sometimes you ignore the hungry eyes pleading for a walk, squirrel, bunny, run, swim, bike ride, dog park or car ride, and you let him lie there because he is straight-up insatiable and eternally, infernally, up for something new or weird. Sort of like you.

Master, I know I am low on your priority list but please deliver me from this godforsaken prison of human stasis and let me run wild. You hold the key to me being the best I can be, the unbridled creature I was born to be. Let me hump a few friends and strangers, chase a few leaves I have mistaken for pheasants and overall be so in the moment that I make all the Zen people look like multi-taskers.

Sometimes you ignore him. Sometimes you tell him to knock it off and be happy with what he’s got. Sometimes you try to entertain him with what makes you happy. Then sometimes you go out into the world, just you and him, and you stumble onto something that makes him happier than you’ve ever seen him and no matter what the CNN crawl or your own personal hounds of hell say, all is right with the world.

That sometime was last Saturday. I took Zero, our four-year-old black lab-slash-Australian Shepherd, to Pearl Park on Diamond Lake Road. Around 8 p.m., the sun was going down and we were alone on the baseball fields and the wide open prairie. I threw a tennis ball and he chased it, galloping full tilt. We did this over and over and, together, reached nirvana. On his way back to me, he’d stop to revel in his own abundant joy by dragging his belly on the grass and rolling around in the freshly-shorn outfield.

We’d been there about a half hour when I threw the ball up against the baseball backstop. It bounced under a hole and disappeared for a second. He went after it like a shot, adjusted his bullet-boy course to go behind the fence, and then suddenly came racing out with his ears pinned back. No tennis ball. He was chasing something.  

A cloud of infield dust billowed into a tiny funnel, and then I could see what had seduced my dog: An electric remote control car, piloted by a guy named Paul and his son Max. They told me the thing cost “five bills” which is why it was so durable and able to withstand the onslaught of a very frisky mutt.

For the next half hour, my dog was a greyhound, the toy car with monster truck wheels the bunny at the race track, and we three strangers a family enraptured by a dog gone giddy. It’s no exaggeration to say that even though I have played and witnessed all sorts of sports on that field, the sight of my dog streaking full tilt across that sunset-dappled horizon may be the most miraculous thing I have ever seen happen at Pearl Park, the Minneapolis Parks system, planet Earth.

My sated but super-psyched dog and I got in the car and headed home. On the Minnehaha Parkway, a guy on a skateboard was running his big brown boxer, who saw Zero hanging his boy-toy–whipped tongue out the window. They fixed their sights on my bumper and took up the chase.

Dude was an urban surfer, dog was running after us with ferocious eyes, bared teeth and yawning mug: we were a fox and the parkway was the English Moors. They hung with us for a mile or so. I kept them in the rearview mirror. They were doing 30 miles an hour when I finally sped up and out of sight, because every dog knows that the thrill of the chase, the journey, is more fun than the catch.