This good boy is tuckered out after a long day under the saddle.
This good boy is tuckered out after a long day under the saddle. CYNOCLUB/GETTY IMAGES

On my walk around Capitol Hill Friday evening I noticed nearly everyone dutifully practicing physical distancing. Everyone, that is, except for dog people.

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At Cal Anderson park, there were gobs and gobs of dog mobs (okay maybe 5) clustered together, rolling around in the real grass and in the fake grass. Their owners made half-hearted attempts to stay 6 feet away from one another, but their leashed (and unleashed!!) animals kept pulling everyone closer and closer together. The people giggled. They laughed. They chatted. They knowingly spread disease

Lol, okay, I can't keep up this act for long. I like dogs, everybody likes dogs, who doesn't like dogs. I even like some dog owners. And while my quarantine brain reflexively cringed at the lack of social distancing I've seen from them lately, I think it's unproductive to scold people who are having difficulty following the rules.

To shush my inner scold, I tried to think of a good poem about the mutually beneficial relationship between humans and canines, which led me to an oldie but goodie from Mark Leidner called "Little Children Riding Dogs," which is the last poem on the page linked here. It is one of the most wholesome, earnest poems I have ever read, and to this day I have no idea how he pulled it off.

If Leidner published it in a book, you may be able to find it in either Beauty Was the Case That They Gave Me or The Angel in the Dream of Our Hangover, both of which rule, and both of which are available at your local bookstore. If you can't find them for some reason, buy his collection of short stories, Under the Sea.

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Anyhow, a few notes on "Little Children Riding Dogs:"

• The thing that makes this pleasant, lineated stoner's dream a poem is the line, "and some of them get home at dusk." The "them" here presumably refers to the children and their K9 steeds. If only some of them get home at dusk, some of them must not. The sunny implication is that the children get lost in this magical Neverland where kids can ride dogs and learn stuff in school without fear of asymptomatically spreading disease, dodging bullets, getting bullied, or whatever. The darker, implication, I guess, would be that they die in some Midsommar-like situation, but that interpretation of the line seems out of keeping with the poem's tone. The speaker here seems genuinely awed by the simplicity of his utopia's beauty.

• Would that all the dog owners at Cal Anderson could control their pets the way the kids in this dreamworld can control their dogs: "when they got there at dawn they’d tell their dogs sit / and the dogs would just sit there / all day in the sun/ with the shadow of the flagpole like a clock."

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