Sunday, July 21, 2013

Pedaling a Pooch in a Pannier

            Many life lessons are learned on a bike, and last Friday’s ride reinforced a common theme: you may start out expecting one thing and find that life has something entirely different in store for you.  I’m still in Minneapolis, and accompanied my cousin Miriam to her weekly yoga class – a strength-building vinyasa-based session at the Center for Performing Arts, taught by Arles – a skilled and permission-giving instructor.

            In the late afternoon, her partner, Amy, and I biked to Minnehaha Falls – the area I’d gotten lost in three times on Wednesday. With Amy as my Sherpa, we easily found the falls, following the Minnehaha trail for an easy 5-mile ride. Amy filled me in on the local history: tributes to the poet Longfellow – whose epic Hiawatha was reputedly inspired by the falls and, in turn, was incorporated into Dvorak’s New World Symphony. The steps and stone walls that facilitate viewing of the falls were a 1940 Works ProgressAdministration project – a reminder of the many useful government-funded efforts of days gone by.

            After viewing the falls and some surrounding areas, we were heading home, riding a somewhat deserted section of path along Hiawatha Avenue (also known as I-55) when we spotted a small white dog scampering in the grass. There were a few parked cars, and I assumed the dog’s owner was watching it. But Amy, wiser and more compassionate than I, insisted we investigate. In fact, the cars were empty, the dog had no collar, and there were no people around. The friendly little fellow was only too happy for us to scoop him up and go for a ride in Amy’s pannier.

            But the afternoon was hot and, after a couple miles, the little white dog managed to jump out. We called Miriam and asked her to meet us at a designated point where the bike path intersected the road. For the next mile or so, Amy cradled the pooch in one arm, and impressed me with her ability to ride one handed to the pick-up location. While Miriam drove the lost dog home, Amy and I stopped to pick up some dog food and enjoyed delicious homemade ice cream cones from GrandOle Creamery.

            Back at Miriam and Amy’s, we were quickly besotted by “our” new dog. We tried to figure out if he was a Bichon, or a Malti-Poo, or some other breed. He appeared to be well taken care of, but Miriam’s daughter, Rhea, gave him a bath with Aveda shampoo and we pulled out an assortment of toys left over from their departed dog, Yofi. The plan was that, in the morning, Amy would take the dog to a vet to see if it had a microchip, and call local animal shelters to see if there was a missing dog report that matched his description. However, I think that everyone harbored a secret hope that he would become part of the family, as he was a delightfully charming, affectionate, and well-behaved little fellow.

            I went up to bed around 10:00 but my concern about the dog was nagging at me. I pulled out my I-pad and did an online search: “Minneapolis lost small white dog” – which quickly took me to Craig’s List. Less than 2 hours earlier, a listing for a “multi-poo,” lost near the Minnehaha dog park had been posted. It included a photo of a dog named Cooper, clearly the same little fellow who had so quickly won us over. With some sadness, but knowing it was the right thing, we called the number – which turned out to be the owner’s irresponsible girlfriend who had been caring for the dog. We said it was too late to pick the dog up that night, but arranged for the owner to call early Saturday morning.

            Miriam and I left Saturday morning to take a workshop on “Writing Family” at the Loft Literary Center where she studies. Thus, we missed meeting Cooper’s daddy and the bittersweet goodbye to the little charmer. Amy reported that Cooper went wild with glee when his dad arrived, so we rested assured that we had performed a mitzvah – a good deed – by rescuing Cooper and finding his rightful owner. He turned out to be a Maltese-Shitsu-Poodle mix, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some similar dog eventually makes its way into Miriam and Amy’s home.

            Miriam and I both enjoyed the workshop, ably taught by Laura Flynn and then walked around the neighborhood, in which I saw many people on bikes. Minneapolis is clearly a very bike-friendly community. We went into the new Guthrie Theater and walked out onto the viewing area to see the “endless bridge” which crosses the Mississippi river and is closed to automobiles, making it a lovely crossing for pedestrians and bicyclists.

            This morning the rain has begun, and thus, I may have taken my last bike ride in the Twin Cities, for now. I will enjoy just hanging out with family for the last full day of what has been a wonderful visit. But I look forward to future trips to Minneapolis, and the chance to explore more of the city’s beautiful bicycle infrastructure.

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