Sunday, June 24, 2012

Things I Learn About People (maybe just Ultra Runners) from my Dog

So we took Enzo to the Canal for another canoe trip.

Anyone who knows Enzo knows that he is a very vocal pooch.  His baseline reaction to anything that strikes him as potentially dangerous is to bark as loud and hard as he can at it.  Sure, this sound like a normal dog reaction.  I know he is just being a dog.  The only problem is I am not always sure what he will interpret as a threat.   Mostly any size dog at any distance is a threat.  A shrimp used as bait on a canal in Florida was a threat.  The Sheephead Fish we caught off the shrimp was a threat, but in Enzo's defense that thing had horse teeth and I was kind of scared myself.  Duffle bags or bat bags at baseball fields are threats. Once a fire hydrant in the dark was a threat.  Sometime shadows are threats.

We pull into the dirt lot and exit my car, just as a group of teenage guys with tackle boxes and fishing poles walk by the car.  They are a few steps ahead of us and look at Enzo.  They couldn't help it because Enzo decided they were a threat and started barking at them.  If Enzo ever barks at people, it is always from a distance and once he get closer to them he softens up and becomes friendly.

One turns back to see this yappy pooch in a life jacket and melts...."Awwwwwww! Look at that dog with the vest on!!!"  He turns back and keeps walking towards the canoes.  We are going the same way and we are right behind them.  We end up in a small group as we cross the canal over a foot bridge.  Enzo stops barking and takes a spot right in the middle of the group.  I can feel his body language soften as he seems like he likes being in the middle as we all move along.  I comment to Sid, that I think Enzo thinks we are a pack.

We get our canoe before the guys get theirs and we head off down the canal.  Enzo finds several more threats along the way... a bullfrog, a large grey heron, and what seemed to be a group of partridge or some other small set of birds walking along in the brush.

As we travel back to return our canoe, the guys are in theirs floating in the center of the canal.  Enzo spots them.  The guy who commented about Enzo's vest at the parking lot quickly, with great joy, says "Hey! Cool! There's the dog again!" Enzo barks back, but with his friendly bark... the bark he gives when he sees someone he knows coming towards him.  It is his "Hey There! In know you!" bark. The bark with no fear or anxiety.  He was just talking.

At that moment, it became so clear to me that a relationship developed between this guy and my dog.  I find this fascinating because it happened in moments only.  There relationship began when Enzo barked and the guy acknowledged Enzo with positive regard.  It was solidified when we all walked as pack over the foot bridge and Enzo got in the center of the group.

That was all it took to bond in a positive way.  Just seconds of moving along together with a common goal in a common direction and at a common speed.  Now my dog and this guy were friends.

This made me think about ultra runners.  Rarely do two or more ultra runners spend time running together at race, moving along with a common goal, in a common direction and at a common speed and not emerge from that experience immediate and fast friends on some level.  There must be someone primal about pack running that immediately solidifies friendships in moments.

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