Monday, March 16, 2009

A Mile in Their Minds

The trails at our Dog Park roughly form a figure-eight. There's the upper loop and the lower loop, with a trail down the middle the connects both to one of the parking  lots. A full loop is one that encompasses both upper and lower trails. It takes you away from the cars and the company buildings along the trees behind the neighboring houses and the creek bed and back again. There is only a short stretch on the loop where you can't see houses or hear cars on the nearby streets. 

For years, fellow Dog Parkers and I would idly wonder as we strolled,  "How long is a full loop?" Based on no particular measurement, we decided it must be a mile. Surely it was a mile. A mile was a nice neat figure, and it made us feel good when  we managed to circle the Park three times. "I walked three miles today," we could say proudly as we slumped in the shade under the pecan trees and cracked nuts to feed the dogs. 

One day, a fellow named R. decided he would measure the loop. So he went out when no one else was around and walked a full loop while counting his steps. He walked some large number--something in the thousands. Then, because he knew the exactly length of his stride, he calculated that the full loop was really closer to .75  mile. This number did not go over well. How could the loop be less than a mile? People were suspicious of R.'s calculations. He may have been a computer geek, but his political views were a little too Republican. Plus, did anyone actually see him walk the loop? People chose to ignore R.'s calculations.

Later, a young woman named R.L. began training for a marathon. She decided to use her pedometer to measure the full loop so she could run there for training. Her readings were even more drastic. According to R.L., the loop was hardly more than half a mile! Dog Park was shrinking with each calculation! Again, people quibbled. "Well, R.L. has those short little legs, of course her measurements are off." Again, people doubted and kept on walking a loop that was still a mile in their minds. 

Many years later, I still have no idea how long a full loop really is. And I don't want to know. For me, the Loop is a state of mind. Like life, sometimes it feels interminable, especially the uphill part. Sometimes, when I am engaged in conversation or lost in cloud-watching, my girls and I finish a full loop in what feels like seconds. Some days we even lose track of how many loops we've completed. Because that is what Dog Park is about—escaping from the niggling little things. The Park, despite being only hundreds of yards from major Austin thoroughfares, is a little island, a doggy Neverland, that most people don't know exists. It's a place where dogs rule. And, frankly, the dogs don't give a damn how long the loop is. "What loop?," they say. "Just throw the ball! "

1 comment:

  1. A very common question I hear from new parkers is, "how far around is it?" No one every really answers, just throws out random guesses and then drops it. I guess that's the state of mind the dog park puts you in when you're there. Maybe that's why it has never turned into the local jogging track.


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