It was a hardy-har bright story for your morning news: I-94 shut down! There's a dog on the highway! They had footage of the dog running through the stopped traffic as police pursued, and the anchorperson said, "Look at him, out for a stroll, havin' a good time."
Nnnnno. Lost, hungry, wet, and surrounded by big chuffing metal beasts with two men trying to catch him is pretty much the definition of a nightmare for any species.
If it's raining steaks and all the squirrels are slow as snails, that's a dog's idea of a good time.
Anyone who had a lost dog at the moment probably looked at the story agog; I did. Imagine you're a babysitter, and you go up to check on the 2-year old, and the window's open and the kid's gone. Then you get a text telling you, "Ha ha, news says there's a toddler on the freeway."
Your relief at knowing the child's been found immediately would be replaced by something else, shall we say.
I got texts and tweets from people asking: Is this your missing Scout on the highway, trotting toward downtown? Don't think so; he offices at home, and it's hardly likely my scent penetrated the glass walls of Strib HQ. (At least, I hope not; may need to ask co-workers.)
I looked at the news footage again. It could be him, inasmuch as it was a medium-sized quadruped with dark fur. It wasn't a pony trying to pass as a dog. You're looking at four pixels on a blurry screen; the picture made Pac-Man look like 3-D IMAX.
So I called MnDOT and asked if there was any higher-resolution footage available, because this is like looking at a guppy in Lake Harriet from the window of an airplane.
It makes you wonder: Why does traffic-cam footage look like the cameras were bought from a 1976 bank security system? Every time you see a picture from a highway cam, it seems as if the lens was coated with Vaseline. You could have a guy on a pole narrating the traffic, and you'd get more detail.
And then you wonder about bank cameras. Think about it: Every time you've seen a picture of a robber, it's shot from up in the corner of the room. Every robber knows that if he wears a baseball cap with a brim, that's all we'll see.
And so the police issue an alert: "Be on the lookout for a Twins fan." OK, toward the end of the season — especially the past few in which the team has struggled — that narrows down the search, but still.
Imagine the conversation the bank had when it hired the security people:
Security guy: "We've got the cameras there waaaay up in the corner, looking down at an angle."
Bank manager: "OK, but I have to ask — why not behind the cashier, looking directly into the face of the robber?"
Security guy: "This way you can see them coming and going."
Manager: "I suppose, but it isn't the coming and going we want so much as, you know, the face."
Security guy: "From this angle you also can see the people who are traveling in the line next to the window the guy's robbing. Do you get it now? You see both lanes. Now, you can switch from this camera to the one we put on the farthest possible side of the lobby, and then you can watch the customers in both lanes from another direction. That way, in case one of the customers pulls over and sits down, you can send help. If one of the customers in this lane goes over into that one, you can dispatch someone to keep things straight."
Manager: "What are you talking about? It sounds like a system better suited for, oh, I don't know, a four-lane highway."
Security guy: "We sell a lot to them too, yes."
There's some good news, though. The highway cameras are being replaced with high-def models, MnDOT spokeswoman Christina Joyce said.
"We are in the process of upgrading to high-def cameras," she said. "We have purchased a quantity of new, high-def cameras to replace older first-generation analog/digital hybrid cameras.However, it will be a few years before all 800 traffic cameras are upgraded. But we will be upgrading as we're able."
That's great. Soon you'll be able to see a dog on the highway and know right away if it's yours!
By the way, if you do see a lost dog — and here we enter the boring PSA portion of this offering — do not chase, or shout. Experts say you should lie down, avoid eye contact, offer a treat and mutter familiar phrases.
If that sounds like your last date night with your spouse, you might consider counseling. So hug your spouse.
Also your dog.