True story: Last week I’m crossing the Castellana, the largest transport artery running north and south through Madrid, when off the sidewalk into traffic bounds a beautiful dark-grey labrador, collared, un-leashed, and no owner within sight.
Miraculously he crossed just at a break in cars, giving drivers time to slow down as he trotted from one side of the road to the other. The pedestrians around me all looked at each other a bit dumbfounded; I don’t know if it was more over the fact that he hadn’t been hit, or that a beautiful dog had just pranced his way around mid afternoon traffic of the Castellana without a care in the world. And of course we were all expectant for the owner to come running after him, limbs and leach flailing. Yet the owner never came.
The lab no longer in sight, and the cross-walk light now in green, I crossed the Castellana with the rest of the civilized world.
Not two minutes had passed when yet again, the care-free and owner-less labrador bounded back into sight, freezing those around him with fear that he could be hit. Should I have grabbed him? Should I have called out for someone to grab him? We all just stood and watched, caught under the by-stander spell.
Yet this labrador, in some slobbering, mystic way, seemed un-grabable, untouchable, he ran like a comb through us, above us, tongue streaming back to form a tripod with his bouncing ears. Watching that dog run was like watching words being sung, free, liberated, weightless. He was unstoppable, majestic, unaware of the danger he cheerfully danced through. He could have been running through a meadow, caught up by the love of the wind. Or chasing curiosity through shade dappled woods. Or galloping down the beach, paws wet and sandy.
Now, I do not recommend playing in traffic on Thursday afternoons, but the more the image of that dog reels through my mind, the more I am consumed with envy of his suicidal neglect of domestication. Like the scene in ET where Eliot drunkenly sets all the frogs in Biology class free.
I have come to feel that maybe that dog was not just a dog. That maybe that dog was in fact a short-haired martyr, a martyr urging all us city folk to set ourselves free. That all these crosswalks, yellow and white dividing lines, sidewalks and blacktops, whistles and lights, are nothing more than a leather leash and chained collar. And that quite probably, our owner will never appear.