Friday, September 15, 2006

The Fight in the Dog

Does anyone remember what the last day of school felt like? Maybe not that big; how about the last day of school before Christmas vacation? Do you remember?

Luckily, even as adults, we are given little snatches of what it felt like to be a kid -- sometimes even that "last day of school before vacation" feeling. I got it today, when the football game I was supposed to cover was cancelled.

Last week, I did my first high school football game for the San Francisco Examiner: Half Moon Bay vs. Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep. And I enjoyed it immensely. It was partly because this new freelancing job offers up a short ride in that elusive time machine I'm always pursuing. When was the last time you walked through the parking lot before a high school football game, for example?

I also enjoyed being on the sidelines. I am a football fan. Ask Sandra Bullock and the Jawa. Each Sunday from September to January they are instructed to leave me alone while I read the paper and watch football. They comply. Having now spent just one game on the sidelines, a high school game at that, I now know that I had no idea what football was like until last Friday.

Football is brutal, and brutally exciting. It's coaches screaming until the veins pop out of their foreheads, and refs sprinting across the field at the end of each play, yelling, "It's over! It's over!" so the kids will know that it's time to stop punishing each other. It's number 25 running high-kneed up and down the sidelines, testing out the ankle he just sprained, and 17-year-old kids shouting obscenities at each other during each play, and the coaches not saying a word about it afterwards. Try that as a sixteen-year-old on a mostly silent baseball field. See how that works out for you.

So I did enjoy covering my first high school football game. Loved it, actually, but that didn't make the last-day-of-school feeling of today any less joyous.

There I was, slogging through another day in the lab, this time "gowned up" (full-on shower cap, goggles and booties), pasting stickers on equipment in the plant, expecting to drive to Oakland, watch a game and then pound out 150 words by dinner time. I expected it all the way up until the minute I called Burton Academic High School and learned that the game had been cancelled.

Burton did themselves a favor by cancelling the game. They might want to apply this strategy to each of their remaining games. A team that finishes the previous season 1-9, with 58 points scored versus 437 should consider any Friday they can get through without injury as a major victory.

Instead of driving across the bridge, I drove home, the day stretching out in front of me to infinity. Would I go to the gym? Go look at cars? Plop myself down on a barstool somewhere and read the paper? Driving up 101, the sun shining off the bay to my right, life seemed limitless. At that moment, I remembered. I got my flash of childhood, and drove imagining the atrium of Santiago Junior High littered with pages of no longer relevant homework and Pee-Chee folders.

So what did I do?

I went home and let Shack in, gave him some food, and then played with him for an hour. What I didn't know at the time is that I was provided Shack with a fun and playful interlude to a day that would eventually turn dangerous.

The Jawa and Sandra Bullock, scheduled to hit Safeway on their way home from school, came straight home instead, interrupting what could have been the best nap of my life. The Jawa and I took Shack out for his daily lap of Glen Park, highlighted by our stop at the pet store, rapidly becoming Cheers for the Jawa and Shack, for everyone there knows their names.

Not this time. This time our way was blocked by some old black dog seven times Shack's size. I'm still not a dog guy, so I can't tell you what kind of dog it was. Some old dog, who at first seemed interested in Shack, and then seemed interested in consuming Shack whole.

It was at this time that Shack emitted a sound we've never heard before, a short, whiny shriek indicating his panic at the situation. Or maybe he just got bit somewhere that hurt, because he didn't seem very panicked. In fact, he seemed pretty much focused on opening a big can of Corgi hurt on this much larger dog.

Unfortunately, intentions don't count as deeds, so after three of us pulled the big dog off of Shack, the Jawa quickly took him to the back of the pet store. I went back there to find one rattled Jawa and one very small, very young dog, obviously miffed at being taken out of the fight before he'd finished the job.

Shack strained against his leash as the Jawa chose a new "beef tendon" for him to pour his aggressions into and a hoof (no kidding. a hoof) to try. "Come on, man!" I imagined our 6-inch tall dog saying, "Is that all you got?"

With the Jawa completely freaked and Shack in full-on Robert Blake mode, I figured it best to buy our beef tendons and complete our walk. The Jawa was certain that Shack was suffering in some way, while the dog seemed energized, ready to throw down with any other dog, regardless of size, who looked at him cross-eyed.

As they say, it's not the size of the dog in the fight; it's the size of the fight in the dog.

This is dog ownership, I suppose. Everyone in the neighborhood loves us now. They've forgotten how many of them have been on the wrong side of an argument with me, seeing only a very small dog with very big ears being walked by a little boy with some shady pro-Israel, hippie-bashing capitalist at his side.

Six hours later, the Burton game would be over and my article filed, leaving me right where I am now: sitting on the couch typing with that insane dog chewing madly away on his freeze-dried hoof as if God never made anything more delicious.


Anonymous anotherlefty said...

Did you ever notice that small dogs have that "Knock that Milkbone off my shoulder" attitude?

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