In reporting on that lovely day at the dog park when we met Kirby's little black-and-tan likeness, I neglected to mention a most dramatic event for yours truly. I was standing out in the field, trying to keep an eye on the dogs as my husband went to get the shovel (it's a really nice, clean dog park). Out of the corner of my eye I saw a couple of big, adolescent dogs in the midst of a game of chase. Typically a game of chase between two large, retriever-type dogs of that 9-12 month age merits considerable attention from the humans at the dog park -- partially because dogs of that age have a full-throttle approach to play that is fun to watch and partially because said dogs are notorious for not watching where they are going.
I saw them coming toward me at high speed and I instinctively bent my knees (locked knees at the dog park can result in trips to the emergency room). I looked for a good escape route. There wasn't one. They were coming fast. Most dogs, when they realize they are headed straight for you, will either fade right or left, so most of the time your best strategy is to stay right where you are and not try to second-guess the dog. Just bend the knees and be ready to get clipped. Being full of youthful exhuberance, the lead dog was paying more attention to the dog chasing him than he was to where he was going and, instead of fading right or left, he smacked straight into me.
What happened next I'm not sure about. Suddenly I was airborne, my feet swept straight out from under me. I landed spread-eagle, flat on my stomach with my arms and legs outstretched. The force of the earth hitting my rib cage knocked just enough wind out of me for the expletive I uttered to be audible to anyone within 50 feet of me. For a moment I just stayed there, assessing if anything felt bruised or broken. I was quite surprised to find that I felt just fine, and other than a couple of grass stains on the elbows of my shirt and one tiny sliver, I emerged relatively unscathed. My knees were fine. Somehow I must have landed so squarely on my front side that the impact was distributed across my entire body.
Of course, the dogs ran on, entirely clueless, and several people came running up to see if I was OK. Apparently it looked a lot more dramatic than it felt. My husband, who was at the opposite end of the park, said he saw me standing there one second, looked away, and then I was flat on the ground. He missed the flying part altogether. And where were Baxter and Kirby, my fearless protectors? Off galavanting around.
I picked myself up, put my glasses back on, brushed off the grass and did my best to recapture my dignity. I waved to let everyone know I was OK. I was really surprised that neither my knees nor my elbows were sore. The next day I felt it, however. The bottom of my rib cage was a bit bruised (which I only felt when I tried to cross my arms) and I stretched a few muscles in ways they are not normally stretched. All in all, however, I was pretty fortunate to come out of the deal in such good shape.
I guess dog-guardian karma finally caught up with me. When Baxter was a youth of approximately the same age, he was leading a pack of dogs in a game of chase through the park and plowed into an unsuspecting woman. I think he messed up her knee pretty badly. Baxter, of course, acted as if nothing had happened and kept right on running. It's hard to apologize enough for such a thing. It's not like it was entirely my fault, after all, we were at a park where all the dogs were running off leash. But somehow I felt responsible because it was my dog at the front of the pack. I offered to pay for the woman's doctor bill if needed. She just waved me off and limped away with her dog. I felt awful.
I've spent a lot of time in dog parks and this was my first direct hit that actually knocked me down (I've been grazed a few times and a few of those actually felt worse). I guess I had it coming eventually. I'm just thankful it was a relatively smooth flight and a nice, even landing. And I'm glad it's a really clean dog park.