Origin Story: A Dog’s Life
It was the beginning of the new and the newsworthy. But it was also the end of old and the anonymous. The day started off as many had before it. It was six o’clock in the morning and I was taking a walk in the park with my labradoodle Ross. Labradoodles are part Labrador retriever, part poodle, and in his case seem part kangaroo as well. He has black curly hair, kind of what you might expect on a shag rug. As usual we had both to compromise as to what speed we should travel. I was the slower one, especially when there were squirrels in sight, sound, or smell.
We had entered the park, and I had just let him off the leash. As usual, he took off like someone had just fired a starter’s pistol. This time his sprint took him to what look like a bright orange ball. When I think of it now, I remember that the ball looked like it had a light glowing inside of it. I didn’t think much about it at the time. Ross picked it up, stood still with the ball in his mouth, no chewing for an uncharacteristic more than a few moments. Then he ran towards me so that we could play a game of fetch. Now fetch with him can be something of a problem. He likes to combine fetch with tug-of-war, being equally serious about both games. But this time he just dropped it on the ground for me to pick up. I remember thinking that it didn’t appear to be glowing as much as it had. What I didn’t notice at the time was that the colour of his eyes had turned to a bright orange. That was a surprize for later on.
What I did not know at the time was that this ‘ball’ had travelled a very long way before landing in the park and become a fetch toy. What I would find out later on was that it had been quite large when it entered the earth’s atmosphere, but got smaller and smaller as it came under the increasing pressure of the earth’s gravity. Those who viewed it with telescopes when it was high up believed at first that it was just some archaic weather balloon that had drifted off course. As it got much lower, those who saw it thought that it was just a balloon released during an outdoor birthday or anniversary party the night before, and had flown away from the others, or was the last one not to burst.
When I got tired of the game of fetch and tug, we walked towards the cliffs where we usually sat down together to look at the waves crashing in on the beach. I often gave him a bone when we are there, as I intended to do this time. This was just in case he got bored and started looking down at the cliff face, and wondering whether his long labradoodle legs could carry him down to the beach and return back again after he had bitten some impudent waves.
But fate had different plans for us, particularly him, on that day. We heard and saw a middle-aged woman cry out “Dad, dad”. She soon saw us and asked “Have you seen an old man in your walk? He sometimes, well often, wanders around with no particular direction. I bent over to re-tie my shoelaces, and when my head went back up again, he was gone.”
I shook my head and answered “no.” Within seconds, as I scanned this open part of the park to look for him, that would be the wrong answer. To my dismay, the old man was a few steps away from the edge of the cliffs. I thought at that time that we, me, Ross, and the woman, were all way too far away to reach him before he would plummet down upon the rocks below.
But I reckoned without a newly-energized Ross. He took off like a rocket, ripping the leash clear out of my hands. If he had been Homo sapiens, and not Canis familiaris, I would have thought that he was exhibiting super-human speed. Sure enough, he got to the old man in time, grabbed the old man by his baggy pants, and hauled him back from the edge of the cliff. Ross had saved his life!
When I got to the two of them seated on the ground, the old man was patting Ross’s head and saying, ‘nice doggie, nice doggie’. I wondered whether he truly knew what the dog had just done for him. The woman certainly did. When she joined us she exclaimed, “I have never, ever seen a dog run that fast. And I used to have a greyhound.”
The whole matter would have ended there, at least for a while, but a freelance photographer had been filming the cliff edge from a fair distance away with a high-powered doubtless very expensive camera on a stand. He was hoping to sell his film to one of the nature networks. He had no idea that the old man was wandering to almost certain death. He just thought that the old man was sight-seeing, and was unhappy that this ‘intrusion’ as he initially thought it might spoil his film. By the time he became aware what was happening, it was too late for him to do anything. His camera caught, but the photographer did not see at first, the burst of incredible speed that Ross had engaged in to save the old man.
When he came to know what had happened, he looked over his film, and saw the unbelievable speed with which Ross had run, he knew that he had something that he could sell to a network, perhaps a major one. He did.
And that was the end of Ross just being an ‘ordinary dog’. He became ‘The Dog with the Bright Orange Eyes.’ The story about the orange ball, that was once an outer space balloon from somewhere, became known, and was included in the storyline. His fame was enhanced when at least once he rescued a young child from drowning. We’re not sure that the second and third children were drowning.
It wasn’t long before there were graphic novels (comic books to relics like me) written about Ross, and talk of a movie. Our early morning walks were now more or less public events. I am thinking of getting a stamp made of his paw print.