A couple pf things you need to know first: When I’m in Jackson, I run along this little dirt road. It follows the Snake River and, about a mile from the house, passes into Grand Teton National Park. So depending on how long my run is each day, I might be in the Park for a couple of miles or even five or six miles.
You also need to know is that – while it’s not posted that you can’t bring dogs into the park, you really can’t. I know this. But there’s this one certain dog, who will remain nameless though he’s in NO WAY innocent, who loves to run with me. And I love to take him. It’s fun to see him enjoying himself so much, and there’s something extremely instructive about running with a dog. I watch him loving every step and try to follow his example.
About a mile into the park, Namesless Dog and I passed a parked Subaru Outback. It was empty, and I assumed it belonged to a fly fisherman was was knee-deep in the river somewhere. With the exception of a few fly fishermen, I never see anyone during my runs in the park. I wasn’t even the tiniest bit worried.
Nameless Dog and I ran about three miles into the park and then turned around, and on our way back, here comes that Outback. I yell for Nameless Dog to come to the side of the road and sit, which he does. For a moment. The Outback pulls up and stops. Down goes the window. And a uniformed park ranger inside says, “You are not supposed to have a dog in the park.”
I’m a terrible liar. But at first, I’m okay. I have the perfect answer, and it just happnes to be the truth.
“I’m so sorry. He’s not my dog, and he just won’t listen to me.”
I thought she’d just say, Well, get him out of here and don’t come back. I thought she’d be grumpy and scold me and let me go. But no.
“Well, who’s dog IS HE then?”
My lying disability really manifests when asked a direct question that I know the true answer to. I just cannot deliver a believable response.
“Um, uh … I don’t know. He just followed me in here.”
Park Ranger picks up her radio speaker and says, “I’m going to call dispatch and have them do something about this. I saw ANOTHER person running with a dog yesterday, too.”
“It wasn’t me! I promise!” This just sounds desperate and also she doesn’t care AT ALL.
“I have dogs, too, so I understand you want to have them with you, but there are wild animals in here. I just saw elk. And there are wolves everywhere.”
I have no idea whether she’s concerned about the welfare of the wild animals or the dogs, but she’s still messing around with that radio. I’m terrified she’s going to call someone and make the come pick up Nameless Dog, and I KNOW I can’t run fast en0ugh to get home before some Park Ranger Dog Pound Truck arrives. (Of course there’s such a thing. Don’t be silly.)
“Please don’t call anyone. I’ll find out who his owner is and make SURE he is locked up before I run again. I promise.” I’m begging. I try to sound extra submissive and pleading (and not allow my voice to betray my feeling that she’s being a little bit of a jerk).
And then … Nameless Dog JUMPS ON HER CAR. WITH HIS PAWS. It’s fast, but there’s this long, slow-motion sound of his front claws screeching down the paint.
She turns and yells, and, my friends, so do I. Without thinking, I bellow, “NAMELESS DOG! GET DOWN!” Except, you know, I use his name.
Park Ranger whirls around, smiling, and says, “So you DO know this dog.”
And with that, I’m caught. In the lamest lie I’ve ever told, I answer, “Well, I’m, um … well, I’m staying with a friend, and he knows all the dogs in the neighborhood, so I’ve heard this dog’s name. But I’ve never met his owners. Because, you know, the dogs run around the neighborhood, but, of course, the owners don’t.” And then I laugh. Because that last part was supposed to be a joke. To lighten up the situation.
I’m good, right?
Maybe Park Ranger took pity on my extreme ineptitude, or she (correctly) sensed my stubborness and knew I’d never tell her whose dog this was, but either way, she finally gave up. Grumpily, she just told me she’d better not see me out there with a dog again and then drove away while I was repeatedly thanking her.
She didn’t arrest me or even write me a ticket, but I DID imagine that it was only because she wanted to follow me home to see whose dog it was. The whole way back, I ran with one eye over my shoulder. I nearly tripped a number of times. I sweated WAY more than was appropriate for the 55 degree wather. My heart rate was about 10 beats higher than it should have been.
And Nameless Dog raced in front of me, tongue out, grinning.