The park is quiet. Only me and the dog in the early morning dew.
My dog is a lowrider. Stands about a foot high. Doesn’t know it and wouldn’t believe it if I told her.
A squirrel climbs the overgrown honeysuckle hedge. My dog doesn’t notice much above eye level. She’s focused on the game about to begin.
I palm a tennis ball, neon green. She crouches, leans back and springs, breaking into full speed before I have thrown the ball.
Whizz! She runs past me, her eyes fixed straight ahead.
My arm swings back, then forward and release! Straight and low as if bowling. The ball flies silently, lands out in front of her, bounces and rolls.
She catches up. Overtakes it. Talks trash. Growling and complaining. Attacking. The bloodless prey is caught. It fills her mouth. She claspes it between her teeth, smiling.
No fetch with this dog. No jumping for the frisbee or turning flips in the air. No herding sheep or children. No crazed obsession with water.
Her line is European, bred to hunt vermin in the rock pile cairns of Scotland. Rabbits, weasels, moles and voles, rats and field mice. Go to ground. Corner them in their burrows. Fight to the death. It’s what she’s born to do.
We aren’t in Scotland. We’re in St. Louis. There are no cairns to climb here. No ancient Grendel-like rodents to pick off as bagpipes hum and drums beat sharp. Only a park with an open field of grass, clover and dandelions.
It’s illegal for her to be off lead. But we hunt this high country alone. Our crime goes unwitnessed by human eyes.
Victorious she drops the dead ball. Runs full bore past me again. I pull back and bowl another ball out in front of her, neon pink this pitch.
Again and again we repeat the jig until she collapses and sprawls in the wet grass. She pants and licks the blades, selectively chewing the sweetest ones.
I jog out to retrieve the unlikely carrion. I hold them as gingerly as a collection of arrowheads, a cache of unpublished posts.
Soon she pricks her ears. Makes eye contact. “Throw it, mama. Throw it!”
It’s exercise. Good to keep her spry. More than that though, the hunt is on.
Soon we’ll take the hill and head back up to the house, our short legs muddied with earth. We’ll trot across the yard, through the gate, unlock the back door. We’ll drink long laps of water from a stainless steel bowl. Lie on our sides on the cool floor. Now still and able to settle.
God arms me with strength, and He makes my way perfect. Psalm 18:32 NLT
Bold hearts and nodding plumes Wave o’er their bloody tombs. Deep-eyed in gore is the green tartan’s wave. Shivering are the ranks of steel, Dire is the horseman’s wheel, Victorious in battlefield, Scotland the Brave!
Special thanks for help finding the song goes to Laura H., a most remarkable woman who also happens to play the bagpipes.