AdLibs: A man, a dog, a white line

Early this morning as I ran west toward the foothills without a single car in sight, I came across a man and his dog. I was running facing traffic in the bike lane, bordered on the right by a newly-painted white line. The man, his dog and I were going in the same direction. As I approached from behind, the dog stepped over the white line and into the traffic lane. The man stopped.

Instead of yanking on his dog’s leash, this man quietly told his dog to sit, which he did, looking a little dolefully at his owner. Instead of yelling at his dog, which part of me expected this man to do, he got down on his knees and stroked his dog’s head. Then he looked into his eyes and said simply, “Don’t go in the road.”

Now. I’m not sure if this dog, or any dog, gets it when it comes to white lines on the road. But after watching this man and this dog, I suspect that there are dogs, if properly taught, who can learn to beware of the white line on the road and respect it as a boundary. They won’t ever know why but will comply because they wish to please their master. Maybe they’ll even come to trust that the boundary is for their own good. That it is there to somehow keep them safe.

White lines, in one form or another, are everywhere. They keep us on the straight and narrow. Insist that we do what’s right, for our own good, to keep us safe, to make sure we take our turn, to keep us “in line.”

Sometimes we human beings balk. There are lines we disagree with. Sometimes we’re in a hurry or we just don’t give a hoot and we step over. But most of us, most of the time, take note of the white line and stay inside it. We know it’s there for a reason.

It’s a rocky road out there. As I continued on my run, I got to thinking that we’d all be better off if we did a little less yelling and yanking. Instead we might offer a gentle touch and speak a little more softly — to our dogs and to each other.

There’s no avoiding the road. Head on out but take note of the white line and hug your dog.

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