I walk my black lab down to the The Ponds, our small neighborhood park on the south side of town near Morgan and York. I am hurrying on my way, intent on fitting in some exercise for my dog in the few minutes I have for lunch. Ceasar is pulling me towards his mid-day heaven, the place where he chases and jumps and catches the Frisbee with ease. He carries the doggie disk in his mouth, prancing ever faster towards his destination, never ever getting there fast enough.
As we approach the park I glance at the two elderly ladies sitting on the bench and they look up at us as we walk past, speaking quickly in Chinese, their heads tilted near each other. I hope they won’t be upset when I let Ceasar off his leash. I know it’s against the local leash law but running for the Frisbee for ten minutes at lunch is the only time Ceasar gets his exercise. And like any good, self-respecting lab, all he wants to do is play.
I walk to the edge of the grass and unhook the dog from the leash. Behind me I hear the Chinese ladies again, murmuring, louder now, from a breeze to the wind.
“Crap,” I think. “One of them is going yell at me any minute.”
Quickly I decide to get in a few good throws for the dog before the reckoning happens. I whip the Frisbee forward and Ceasar darts after it, no longer just an everyday lab but now a beacon in space, zipping at the speed of time. He is good at this – it’s his thing – and in these moments he looks so fluid and smooth, like Lake Michigan on a calm day. When Ceasar poises to jump, the humming from the women behind me pitches up an octave. And when, in midair, he finally clutches the disk between his teeth, the ladies in the park start to clap, delighted by his performance, happy for the entertainment. I turn around surprised and laugh, delighted by them. I make a mental note to myself to stop expecting the worse.
We continue in that manner for the next ten minutes, the dog running for the Frisbee, the ladies humming their anticipatory song and then the hardy clapping for a job well done whether Ceasar makes the catch or not. It is a warm and sunny day and the four of us are thoroughly enjoying ourselves.
As we start home, Ceasar panting happily, his face drawn back into a doggie-smile, I turn and wave at our two-person audience. The two ladies in the park wave back excitedly, chattering in a language I can’t understand, smiling and happy. Before we’re out of earshot I hear one of the ladies in the park call out in broken English,