I recently lost a good friend of mine. His name was Oliver and he was a 14 year-old Golden Retriever who loved long hikes, cold rivers, rolling in stinky things, and affectionately humping unsuspecting legs. This is the story of Oli's finest hour.
It was the summer of 2003, and Salt Lake City was brutally hot. I was never one to get up early enough to exercise before the heat set in, so I got into the the habit of going for a nightly run in the soccer field by my old Jr. High School. We lived in a safe neighborhood, so I had never felt unsafe running alone in the dark, but I always took Oliver with me just in case. Oli, in all his golden retriever friendliness, would never be a threat to anyone, but I figured any potential attackers would leave me alone when they saw the 75 pound dog.
Late one night, Oli was prancing happily around the field as I ran laps, when several trucks pulled up and a group of rowdy young guys emptied out onto the field. I couldn’t make out what they were saying, but they were obviously drunk, their voices taunting, jeering. I had this feeling that they were talking about me. Suddenly nervous, I glanced around for Oliver, but he was nowhere to be seen. It was dark.
I started jogging casually in the opposite direction, hoping to go unnoticed, but before I got very far I became aware that one of the the guys was running after me. I freaked. I broke into a full sprint, but he was faster. I could hear him behind me, breathing hard. I glanced back over my shoulder and realized with complete shock that the guy was stark naked. At that same moment, Oliver appeared out of nowhere and sprang on the guy, knocking him to the ground. Then Oli did the only thing that made sense at the time. He humped him. As the naked guy shrieked, his entire group of friends broke into hysterical laughter.
The “Naked Mile” is a thing. I may have even done it myself once…. or maybe not. Regardless, it’s a bit of harmless fun, usually done on a dare. As soon as all the pieces clicked and I realized that I wasn’t in any danger, I called Oli off the guy, my voice cracking with embarrassment. On our walk back home, Oli was still giddy with excitement from the encounter, and I couldn’t help but think how noble he was for so valiantly coming to my rescue.