A stretch of river LI: In which the Meridian and Scruffy witness something that might as well have occurred on a planet in a galaxy far, far away
Image found here.
Picture, if you will, an early-fall afternoon, the sun slanting goldenly, gloriously through the just-turning leaves of the walnuts and cottonwoods of the northeast corner of Riverside Park. Picture, further, an open space in those trees measuring, oh, a hundred yards in length by 50 or so yards wide, bounded on three sides by the trees and on the fourth by a road which follows the bend in the Little Arkansas. Between that road and the river there's a sidewalk, and it's along that way that Scruffy and I stroll as we trace the perimeter of the park in the afternoons.
On that above-mentioned early-fall afternoon in that open space, Scruffy and I see something that makes us stop and watch for a while. It is a man and his two golden retrievers. The retrievers are not on leashes. They lope about happily in the open space. Their coats gleam just as goldenly as the light that shines on them. The man has with him a toy that resembles a cylindrically-shaped, very well-fed squirrel. He throws it a fair distance (it must be weighted) and one dog fetches it and brings it to him while the other watches in that happy/dumb look bred into all golden retrievers.
The retrievers, their tongues lolling, seem to lope in slow motion, they move so fluidly, the light moving across their coats like liquid.
The light sort of lands with a dull thud on Scruffy.
They are not on leashes.
Scruffy is on a leash; his owner holds its loop in a death-grip. Scruffy looks at them and at me and at them and at me, wistfully, as if to say, "They are not on leashes."
The retrievers return to their owner when he calls them. "Calls them"--not "shouts at them" or "runs after them" or "bribes them with liver treats" or "turns and walks back home, hoping that they'll feel abandoned and follow him home out of fear."
(Now the reader has some insight into why Scruffy is on a leash.)
They do not dawdle or cower when called: they lope that easy lope of theirs up to their owner, their tails wagging.
"You see that magical space, that enchanted glade over there, Scruffy?" I say. "That there is Planet Obedient Dog."
Now it is my turn to look wistfully over there.
"We may never ever get to visit there. But, you know, it's nice to dream we might some day. One small step for a man and his dog . . . "