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Six Monkeys: No exit, or, the existential truth about dogs

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By Kelly Dolejsi

I live with two dogs, one cranky almost-12-year-old and one puppy, whose fur is spun by baby silk moths.

Some weeks, I have an extra dog on loan from a vacationing friend, a super-fierce Yorkie who can hide inside an oven mitt if he needs to. Essentially, I live in dog world, where all we do is rip the fluff out of stuffed bats and bunnies and look for better and better places to pee.

I love this place but sometimes it makes me feel like chewing on my own feet or walking around in 17 circles before I lie down. This is usually a good time to do something dogs just can’t do – that is, sweat.

So I run. Most of my runs kind of blend together. Perhaps my throat felt very dry on Monday and then on Wednesday, I wish I had worn the other socks. But two of my recent excursions really stand out and although they both involved plenty of sweating, on neither run did I actually escape.

RUN 1: The Purple Leg

This is not the first run chronologically, but this story just can’t follow the other, which features majestic beauty. This one features my left leg, a few inches of it anyhow, in a mouth.

It was near dusk and I was nearly out of oxygen. A couple miles back, I had espied, hugged and had one of those too brief, flickering little conversations with a friend of mine where you say a fragment of every 12th thought and since then had been running fast in an effort to finish the trail loop before darkness fell and all the rocks became invisible.

It was almost too sweet; magical pavement and bright, happy street lamps.

I had maybe 400 meters to go, according to my right-brain’s GPS mechanism, which doubles simultaneously as an e.e. cummings appreciator, when I saw a couple walking a perky honey-colored dog up ahead, its head all lively with whiskers and tall ears twitching every which way.

We were on a double-track trail, but the right-hand track was stuffed with rocks, so I headed toward the middle and the dog and its family stayed in the left-hand track. The dog was so cute and leashed; it never occurred to me that it would mangle my thigh.

But that’s the thing about dogs, isn’t it? They have a lot more teeth than most of us dog owners truly acknowledge. Even the nice dogs have these full sets of huge, sharp teeth situated in these powerful, vastly under-appreciated jaws.

I thought this was a nice dog. Its owners seemed completely shocked when I yelled out and grabbed my punctured leg. Through my pain, I heard the woman say something “... a nipper, not a biter.” I heard her apologize several times. I sputtered something about being OK and kept running, looking down every so often at the throbbing orchid on my leg.

By the time I got home and iced, I realized how often I let my dogs reach out to the ends of their leashes to sniff passers-by  and that my dogs have teeth, too. Even the puppy, whose mouth sometimes turns into a furious stapler, could actually hurt someone. My dogs are in dog world, even around people who think they’re free.

RUN 2: The Missing Sled

I’m glad this run actually happened before “The Purple Leg,” or I might not have enjoyed it at all.

I was on the same trail loop, a little earlier in the day and a little earlier on the trail, where it’s still single-track.

I get kind of lost in my head on these runs. I start columns, I rhyme couplets, I compose letters to cousins I haven’t seen in 10 years, I play out arguments. In the middle of one of these pointless cerebral detours, a very relevant thought accidentally interceded: “Hey,” I thought to myself, “there’s a trio of Huskies charging toward me.”

They were beautiful, even with their hackles all ridge-like on their backs and their dog-lips curled up in growls.

Then a few more rounded the bend, then another half-dozen and soon I was standing, arms out, palms down, in the middle of a pack of Huskies. I still didn’t see their owner. I was  trying not to look into their ghost-like blue eyes, in case they might misinterpret that as a sign they should rip the fluff out of me.

I eventually saw another person and later, after the dogs let me live to sweat another day, learned the dogs were a sled team, out for a little exercise. It’s quite a feeling, though, being allowed to live – feeling all those nostrils sniffing out my fate. I might complain sometimes about living in dog world but ultimately I’m their helpless, square-toothed guest.