Yesterday morning I took a double lap around Schiller Park. It was a bright, sunny morning, and lots of neighborhood dogs had brought their human pals to the park for a romp through the bright green grass. Many of the dogs were off the leash. That meant I got to watch some of the Squirrel Game.
For those not familiar with it, the Squirrel Game is played at Schiller Park on any sunny day. The contestants are dogs and squirrels. The squirrels venture out onto the grass. The dogs see the squirrels and then take off in hopes of actually catching one of the furry critters. The squirrels see the dogs coming and easily make it back to the safety of the trees, sit on a tree branch, and then taunt the dogs with a death stare like you might see in the NBA after one player posterizes another with a particularly nasty dunk.
I would be willing to bet that, in the storied history of Schiller Park, no dog has ever actually caught a healthy adult squirrel. Nevertheless, their DNA compels the canines to keep trying, not matter what — which makes the Squirrel Game pretty entertaining to watch. In fact, with people suffering from severe sports deprivation these days, what if there were a live broadcast of the Squirrel Game to help fans try to scratch that sports itch?
Play-by-play announcer: Welcome to Schiller Park in Columbus, Ohio, for week three of the Squirrel Game! It’s a beautiful day for squirrel chasing, and we’ve got a full slate of contestants ready to engage in a fruitless interspecies exercise. Jim, do you think that this just might be the week where a dog actually catches a squirrel?
Color guy: Not a chance, Frank! But that doesn’t mean that there won’t be a bunch of representatives of man’s best friend who don’t believe that this will definitely be the day when they actually catch a squirrel, and they are willing to run themselves into panting exhaustion in hopes that their dreams will be realized.
Play-by-play announcer: Well, hope springs eternal! And we’ve got our first contestants ready to go. Bosco and Skippy have moved away from their tree out onto the grass, and Missy, an overly groomed Shih Tzu wearing an embarrassing pink bow in her fur, has just been let off the leash by her human.
Color guy: Our audience will remember Bosco, of course. Like every squirrel in the park, he’s never been caught or even put into remote physical peril by the neighborhood dogs, but Bosco is a crowd favorite because of his exceptional taunting moves. He’s been training Skippy, so we’ll get a chance to see how that is going.
Play-by-play announcer: The squirrels have moved pretty far away from their tree to give Missy extra hope. Bosco has dug up some kind of nut and is munching away on it, while Skippy is twitching her tail, hoping to attract Missy’s attention. That’s one of Bosco’s patented moves, and it looks like Skippy has mastered it. Wait a minute — I think Missy has seen them! Yes, and she’s taken off! Here we go!
Color guy: Really bad form by Missy, Frank! She’s started running much too early, and she’s not very fast, anyway. You’d think dogs would have learned by now that if you really want to catch a squirrel, you need to sneak up on them.
Play-by-play announcer: Well, they are dogs, Jim.
Color guy: Yes, they are, which is why they never have a chance but still happily try. Bosco and Skippy have noticed Missy heading their way, and Bosco is calmly taking a few extra nibbles on that nut and waiting until the last minute, giving Missy even more hope that this might actually be the day that she catches a squirrel. And Missy has taken the bait, and is running at top speed. Look at that pink ribbon fly!
Play-by-play announcer: That’s why Bosco is one of the true all-stars. He always gives the dogs hope before crushing their expectations like a discarded soda can.
Color guy: You’re right of course, Frank! And now Bosco and Skippy are engaging in some very nifty broken-field running to get back to their tree. Some great moves from the savvy veteran and the rookie there!
Play-by-play announcer: They’ve easily made it to the tree, leaving Missy back in the dust. And now Missy has finally reached the tree trunk and is yapping and acting like she’s protected the human world from the scourge of the squirrel menace.
Color guy: You’ve got to give Missy credit for trying to put a happy face on a pretty dismal effort, Frank! She didn’t even come close, not by a long shot, but her posturing and irritating yapping shows she’s a real pro.
Play-by-play announcer: Bosco has caught Missy’s attention again, and is giving her that famous Bosco stare. Jim, I’ve seen it countless times, and it still gives me chills. And wait, Skippy is joining in! A double stare! And now Bosco is going back to munching on that nut, showing Missy and our viewing audience that he is totally undisturbed by the entire episode. You’ve got to give him credit for showmanship!
Color guy: Of course, Missy doesn’t realize she’s been dissed. Being a dog, she’s pretty much oblivious to everything except the chase. And now she’s trotting back to her human with a very self-satisfied air, having seemingly forgotten Bosco, Skippy and the entire embarrassing episode.
Play-by-play announcer: Time for a commercial break. When we return, we’ll be seeing Shultzie, a morbidly obese dachshund, try to catch Tinkles, a fan favorite with a white streak in her tail.
Color guy: Ha ha! I love to watch fat dachshunds try to run. Don’t miss it, folks!