I learned one of the most important lessons from URL, who was about 3 when I first met him. Known mostly for peeing all over the place whenever he first saw you, URL always got too excited to see people he knew or any people, actually, who were willing to give him attention. URL would lose all control when he saw people he REALLY knew and who loved him. From the first time we met, I could tell the world was not a scary place for URL.
Now, the thing that URL taught me had nothing to do with the peeing. It was URL’s attitude. URL had a spirit that did not complicate the simple gifts from the gods. All URL required were pals, some food, water and space to run around in. Fortunately for URL, this was Southeast Alaska, so there were some very nice spaces for URL to run around in.
On one of countless outings, URL and Fiddle were both running around. Fiddle was 2 or 3, about the same age as URL and, anyway, they were both running around a nice, open space not far from the capital one afternoon.
Fiddle had it set in her mind to play some frisbee, which I threw each time she brought it back and each time she would poise and wait for the next toss. URL wasn’t much for frisbee, see, URL just liked to run after Fiddle as she chased after and caught each throw, snapped quick and strong from my hand to plane off long and low across the clearing, about a football-field’s length. The clearing ran alongside some woods and everything smelled fresh during this particular near-perfect day following a solid two weeks of snow and rain. There was no sound save for the frisbee as it flew with a snap of my wrist and then there was the sound of Fiddle: moving so far so swiftly with URL right behind. Fast, over the vast clearing they ran. Over and over, their own rhythm like a finely tuned machine. I could hear only the sounds of their running and breathing and an occasional immature eagle screeching from the woods.
After a while, I happened to look over just as a stray emerged from those woods. The stray stepped to a slow halt at the edge of the clearing. Big enough to be but prolly not a true wolf, definitely wild and quite truly very scary the way it entered the scene. Black as night. And something wasn’t right with it. It was most definitely wild but perhaps sick or mad or something else not awesome. It was not friendly. From the moment I saw the stray, it was self-evident that it had emerged from something serious. How did these wolf-like dogs get into the wild? Where did they come from? We had never seen this one around here before.
It wasn’t leaving. It was paused over there, poised for whatever came next. The energy changed from the instant it had appeared.
Fiddle had just brought back another catch and stopped, stood beside me. I froze. Do we leave? Do we stay? Do we let them work it out? What’s going to happen and how will what I do impact the outcome? This all took place in my mind in less than a second.
URL ran straight at it.
The stray reacted immediately and ran high up the bank of the clearing along the edge of the woods, out of URL’s arc. Evidently the stray wasn’t interested in URL at the start. It came down high off the bank of the woods and headed straight at Fiddle and I, URL still coming around from behind. Fiddle took off in a whoosh, frisbee dropping away in the first strides. Fiddle barreled at the stray, full-speed, head-on. They collided mid-field, into a cacophony of roars from the stray, who’d been taken by surprise by Fiddle, easily less than half its own weight. Fiddle had managed to strategically throw the stray off balance, true to her Border Collie lineage, tackling an animal exponentially larger and heavier than she. It was a remarkable feeling, watching her take such initiative.
They faced off and, for a moment, I had hoped it was cool. It wasn’t. The slow pace they seemed to ease into was only a deeper sizing up. As they circled, the stray began to close the radius between them. As the stray went in for her, the straw of that moment broke the camel’s back of Fiddle’s patience and trust. Right as the stray began to make a move, Fiddle flashed her teeth and split the strays nose open, straight down the middle. It bled profusely and immediately as the stray thrashed about, making a horrible sound. There was blood in the snow now. Something about blood in snow is alarming. It added a new sense of seriousness to things.
URL was running in a holding pattern, just behind the battle. The stray made a beeline for him. URL took off into his lumbering but fast gallop. Fiddle returned to get the frisbee and stood again beside me as we watched URL run away from the stray. For twenty-five minutes. I know because, after it had gone on for what seemed like a long time, I timed it.
Anyone who might have happened upon us in that place that day would have seen a wicked, long, gangly, dirty and mad-looking stray trying to kill URL. For twenty-five minutes. Near misses everywhere, URL misses a step and the stray takes a lunge at him, only to have URL bumble the stray up somewhere getting his cadence back or maneuvering in just such a way as to trip the stray up. URL was not faster than the stray but someone was having so much fun running and tumbling over himself, always managing to come back alive. Over and over and over and over, again. For twenty-five minutes we stood there in silence, only the sounds of their breathing and panting and the stray’s grunts and savage barks, escalating each time URL managed to evade again. URL ran like a fool, tongue hanging out of his mouth.
Here is the thing: URL had no idea, at any moment, that that stray was literally trying to kill him. No. Idea. Even as the stray’s frustration level rose higher and higher, URL ran as if he’d just found the ultimate partner with whom to play an extended game of chase. URL had never had so much fun chasing Fiddle and her frisbee tosses. Happy as a clam for twenty-five minutes, URL was having non-stop, no-nonsense chase time with this would-be adversary/predator.
URL would have run on and on had the stray not trotted slowly away from the pursuit along the edge of the woods, once more. The stray stopped and peered back at us just for a moment before re-entering the woods from where it had come.
URL was spent. He strolled over to Fiddle and collapsed, panting, tongue hanging out. Happy. For twenty-five minutes or more URL had not endured an attack. He’d had a fun afternoon.
URL’s forcefield principle: allowing oneself to experience fun in such a way as to be impervious to the forces of evil.