Like many people, I marvel at the seemingly infinite variety of shapes and sizes of the canine world. Chihuahuas and Great Danes: Same genetic building blocks. Bred for specific purposes and traits, these beasts have been experimented with for thousands of years to the point that their ancient wolf relatives could only look on in puzzlement.
As many of you know, I am a confirmed dog person, meaning that I tend to prefer the company of dogs to cats, not that I am known to eat my weight when left unattended. But that can happen too. I look forward to those moments when I am introduced to a new dog, much in the same way others fawn over human babies. I feel it is necessary to insinuate myself into their doggie lives as much as possible in whatever brief time I am allowed.
The exception to this rule is the group of dogs that I encounter on my runs. I accept that during these times of exercise, I am not nearly as attentive to the animals along the route, concentrating instead on bringing my aging body around the circle I have chosen to make. These paths take me past countless gates and fences. Most of these I can glance through moments before I pass them, anticipating the greeting I may get from the pup prowling or resting on the other side. Inevitably it is the smallest of these dogs who have the most to say as I run by. I know that this is both a territorial and a fear response. I admire the way even the tiniest terrier can get all worked up about their turf. Often this initial alarm raised the defcon level for the rest of the block, and neighbor dogs get up to shout at me just because they heard I was coming.
And every so often, I stop. I make eye contact with the beast that is yipping or snarling at me from mere inches away. What is the big deal? In another universe, we could be friends. I could toss a tennis ball for you to chase in endless repetition. I could scratch your backside until you melted into a puddle of fur and drool. I could be your friend. Your best friend.
But that doesn't happen very often. Instead, I keep going, knowing that if I were to show up the very next day at the same time, and made that my habit, I would still be treated as a stranger. Because that is hard-wired, no matter what the breed. I have crossed in front of the television that is their world view. Who knows what foul intent I may have?
I suppose I could fill my pockets with jerky and take the time to ingratiate myself to all creatures great and small along the sidewalks of my neighborhood, but that seems somehow insincere. I just wish that all those dogs could get to know me before they decided to hate me.