Thursday, July 05, 2007

Overture! Curtains! Lights! Cue The Dog!

Every morning I go for a walk to get a newspaper and some exercise.

A house I sometimes walk past in the morning has a large back yard separated from the sidewalk by a waist-high chain-link fence. Yesterday a BIG German Shepherd was in the back yard. As I approached, the huge dog crouched low, snarled and began growling. As I walked along the sidewalk, the German Shepherd prowled alongside me on the other side of the fence. Its constant snarl kept its teeth visible. Its body was tense, all of its muscles hard. Its growl was throaty and loud.

In my mind’s eye, I could see the huge dog uncoiling and leaping over the low fence to sink its teeth into my neck.

At that moment, however, instead of leaping to attack, the German Shepherd straightened up, looked sharply away from me to its right, and yawned. The dog yawned deeply and long, stretching its long jaws wide. Finishing its yawn, the dog stood still for a moment and licked its muzzle. Finally, as if suddenly remembering me, the German Shepherd crouched back down into its prowling stance, snarled to bare its teeth and resumed its menacing growl.

I almost laughed out loud.

It was a real life moment lifted directly out of one of those old Warner Brothers Looney Tunes cartoons, where an animated dog (or wolf!) steps wildly out of character, engages in some slapstick and then jumps back into its role, its performance.

After watching the German Shepherd yawn, I no longer saw the dog as a scary guard dog looking for a victim, but rather as a tired old house pet putting on a guard dog performance. I continued walking. In my mind’s ear I heard music like this:

My whole reaction to the dog had changed so much that I almost felt like reaching over the chain-link fence and trying to pet the dog.


The German Shepherd might have been giving a performance, but he was taking his performance seriously. My part was just to walk past and I did.

But inspired by the dog’s performance, my steps were now much more animated.

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