The Unpredictability of Life: A Dog Owner’s Lesson

I found myself standing in the backyard earlier today. A low ceiling of grey clouds crawled gently in the winds above. To my left, a mountain of coniferous pine was swallowed near whole by an enveloping mist. There was a cool breeze that accompanied this visual marvel, but it was a welcome one all the same. I almost lost myself to the serenity of it all — and that’s when my ninety-pound Malinois dropped a saliva-stained ball at my feet. I heard the weighted and wet, “clunk,” land proximal to me. When I peered down to investigate, I was met by an adoring pair of big brown dog eyes, and a tongue that fell lazily to one side of that good ol’ boy’s face.

“…That’s my boy…” I thought to myself, as I acquiesced at the knee, and knelt to pick it up. I knew what this gesture had implied — it was time to play — my enjoyment of tea and temperate weather would have to wait…as it was evident that he could not.

Next to him, was another endearing sight, though, quite juxtaposed in stature — a mighty, and gerthie brindle Pug Terrier mix — our girl, Gertie. She too was excitedly waiting for the ball to be tossed. My only hesitation came in the realization that once ball has been thrown, it must continue to be thrown until such time that either of my two canine companions decide to put the ball down, waddle inside, and slosh their tongues with reckless abandon in the confines of their water bowls; only to then leave a mixture of equal parts drool to water that leads from downstairs all the way to the living room.

…Oh, the joys if being a dog owner… The love they return makes it all worth it, though. Doesn’t it? I know that for me, gazing down toward those two lovable faces, and watching them pant in breathless excitement often dissuades any emerging vexation that may be calling.

I did as any good dog owner does when requested, and began heaving the ball from where I was standing, to as far into the backyard as possible. Toss after toss, throw after throw, the dogs would bolt in the direction of the tossed ball.

And I suppose this goes without saying — but this was a most repetitious venture. So much so that I began to lose myself once more to the wonderment of this drizzly, yet resplendent spring day. I listened as subtle beads of rain careened off rooftops and treetops alike. The orchestral sounds of mother nature herself befell the land; a soothing pitter-patter.  My tossing of the ball had become almost robotic, and autonomous in nature — not that the hounds seemed to mind. I guess their zealous pursuit of said ball could be described as much the same, though with a palpable glee.

That reminds me…life is funny, isn’t it? In one moment, all can be peaceful, and we expect things to continue on a somewhat linear path, and often times, they do. But then there are those other times; the times where the unexpected invites itself into existence, and we are left scurrying like a host that has just welcomed an unexpected visitor. You may be asking, why do I bring this up…? Well, a once peaceful, ball-tossing morning was at an instant overturned by a violent, and intrusive cacophony.

…I’ll explain…

I had just finished another mindless volley of the ball; I expected that things would playout as they had been — ball tossed, dogs run, dogs scramble, dogs find, and dogs return. Rinse & repeat. But on this occasion, and by some happenstance of nature’s comedic timing, when I had released of said ball that last time, it found itself sailing through the air in a brilliant, unimpeded arc, first up toward the grey-abyss, then out and into the emerald expanse of the backyard. It was during said flight that the unexpected, and shockingly unfathomable occurred — at the same time the ball was in motion, a majestic creature of flight — a bird of the Corvidae family — better known as a Magpie, was listlessly gliding through the air. It had no idea what awaited just moments ahead.

By some astronomically incalculable numerical equation, the ball flew in a perfect trajectory toward the unsuspecting bird, and in one turbulent, and incredulous moment, ball and bird collided in air, causing a deflating “caw” to escape the beleaguered bird’s beak. A savage expulsion of lament, and feathers burst into view before me. Witnessing the mid-air misfortune, my mouth fell agape. The ball had stopped dead — sorry, that might be a poor choice of words — halted in its tracks, and started an uncontrolled freefall to the ground below — as did Maggie, the Magpie. I have since named her. I feel it’s the least I can do when telling this story.

As bird and ball chaotically descended toward the damp earth below, both Scout and Gertie, peered up with excited, bulging eyes. This is when horror further overtook me — I thought that for sure, Scout was going to catch this poor bird, and Gertie was likely to get plopped on the head by a falling tennis ball…she’s not very coordinated, so I didn’t hold much hope in her catching either bird or ball. All of this transpired within the fleeting fractionalized seconds of time, but in minds-eye, it was a slowed, and helpless observance.

But, as luck would have it, Maggie was able to reclaim her flight at a last moment’s notice, and jettisoned off across our yard toward destination, ‘anywhere but here’. Scout and Gertie let free an unhinged salvo of barks as they ran toward the fence-line. I was, shamelessly at that point, doubled over in laughter. The barking only stopped when the dogs heard me wheezing my way toward another fit of jubilant hysterics. I couldn’t comprehend what I had just witnessed.

As the afternoon has waned on, I’ve thought back to the incident in detail, and something donned on me — hilarity and tragedy are often closer together than we may realize, and often times, it’s necessary for us to look for the levity amidst hard times. At funerals, we often trade in funny stories of the recently departed, when someone is sick, we get them a humorous “get well card,” and as we age, we often look back at life’s tougher moments, and laugh that we ever made it through.

I don’t suspect that I would have been laughing as much had Maggie ended up falling to her demise, but she didn’t. She survived and flew onto a better moment in life. As for me and the dogs…? Well, we bonded over balls, and calamity in the backyard. Not a bad way to find a chilly spring day smile.

Crisis, averted.

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