I am not certain why I am starting the second blog post in a row with mention of another hit song from the 1960’s. The Surfaris’ hit from 1963 is certainly, for me anyway, one of greatest instrumentals of that decade.
This, however, is not about great songs, but is instead about a moment where I reflect on a recent and spectacular wipeout of my own. I do wish I would have had an ocean to break the fall, instead of the hard ground.
Morrie and I play hard. We wrestle, we play tug, we go for walks, and I am thrilled that at my age, I can still run fast enough to keep pace with a now 15-week old puppy.
Our vet has said “no” to off-leash parks until he is older than 16-weeks and has had his third round of shots. We have another couple of weeks before we can venture into that realm. Our backyard is big enough that we can play. However, it is not big enough for him to be able to go all out. Thankfully, there is a large field not too far from where we live that people will sometimes go with their dogs. It is big enough for a really good run, and not used very often which means we are often the only ones there.
And the games begin! I’ll chase him. He’ll chase me. He will roll over and get belly rubs, and then another round of chase me. I bring out a tug toy, and I throw it, he retrieves it, we play tug, and then it is a round of catch me. We do some nose work (he is getting very good at “find it”), and then we play chase for another few minutes. This is a typical 45 minute to one hour of play.
Whenever I run, he either follows behind me, or just a few feet to my right. I guess because this was how he did it every time we went out, I was getting a bit confident (cocky?) about how fast and how hard we could actually go. The pitch of this particular day was rising. I had him sit. I tossed him a treat. While he was distracted I turned around and took off at full speed. Now, this is no Usain Bolt pace, but for me it was a very fast run. I hear him. Lop. Lop. Lop. Pant. Pant. Pant. A few feet behind. Lop, lop, lop, pant, pant, pant. Out of the corner of my eye I see him on the right. Loploplop. He pulls slightly ahead of me. Pantpantpant. His eyes singularly focused. His ears pinned back like a cycling aero-helmet. His tail, a slight curve forming a streamlined spoiler that keeps his rear legs planted like a formula one race car. Zoom-Zoom-Zoom (Mazda would be proud) — and, in a split second, out of no where, he darts to his left.
In front of me.
While I continue to run full speed.
It is amazing how many things go through your mind in the time it takes lightning to strike. Don’t hit the dog. Jump! Oh, crap. Don’t fall. Jump over him. Oh, crap. I’m flying. Wow, look at me – I look like Superman. And I didn’t hit the dog! That ground is coming up awfully fast. Oh, crap. Tuck and roll! Nope, too late for that. Brace, brace, brace. Not the wrists – you broke those once before. Land ho! SMASH. And why, oh why, did my conscious mind suddenly break into hahahaha, wipeout!?!
I hit hard. I mean really hard. Wind knocked out of me. The mental check list began: Anything feel broken? Nope. Sprained. Yup, left wrist is a bit sore. Wow, that is going to be a big bruise on my right leg. Knee is killing me. But I didn’t trip on the dog. I missed him! But he’s whining. Why is he whining? About 15 seconds had passed. I had not moved yet. Breath is slowly coming back into my lungs. A wet nose nuzzles my ear. He’s whining in my ear. Nudge. Nudge. Whine. Nudge. What is the modern vernacular in a moment like this? OMG, Morrie is worried about me! #lump_in_throat!
I manage to roll over onto my back. He snuggles right into me. Genuinely worried. “Not on the chest, buddy, I’m a bit sore.” Face lick. Ear lick. Whimper.
I ply myself into a sitting position. A short examination shows a banged up elbow, a grass stain at knee level on my jeans.
Dang, those are my car keys in my pocket — that will leave a mark. Morrie: not a scratch. I missed him. I am Superman — except for the landing.
And why is my phone ten feet in front of me on the grass? That was in my back pocket. Wow, I did hit hard!
What did I learn? Well, for one, I’m not 18 anymore. And two, dogs are unpredictable. Especially puppies. Both great things to know.
Since that day, we still play rough, but I am a lot more conscientious of the whimsical nature of this puppy. I can run full speed, but only while he is sitting and waiting before I stop and turn and he runs to me. He can go fetch at full blast, and when he returns we can play tug.
In the dog world, dogs need to try out a lot of play styles with other dogs until they find the one they can agree on. Bitey face? Licky face? Paws or no paws?
I have discovered, it is the same with the human / dog relationship. We need to agree on how fast, how much time, how vigorous, and the rules of the game. Hmm, I guess it’s not that different from human / human relationships.
Morrie and I are slowly figuring it out, and play time continues to be amazing for both of us (cue the bass riff…).