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Kratu The Avant-Garde Obstacle Course Dog Is The Athlete This Moment Requires

There is always a dog, of course, and the dog is doing some variety of dog things—using its fudgy tubular body in confounding ways; stumbling blindly but purposefully around a parking lot with a big ol’ box top obscuring his field of vision; pointing at a bunch of chickens with what seems sincere concern. Notably often there are also one or more other dogs sort of milling about in the background watching the central action unfold, periodically adding yips or little forays into frame that we might as well imagine are intended to be helpful. Beyond that, what unites the videos of dogs that come closest to redeeming the broader catastrophe of online is that they are animated by and illustrative of an essential thing: the combination of giddy passion and absolutely opaque and confounding purpose that defines The Dog Experience. Every dog video, the supremely viral ones and the ones that find audiences only among the Corgis Playing Tetherball community, exists to show dogs acting—earnestly, thoroughly, transcendently—like dogs.

At the top of this post, for example, you can see a dog named Kratu behaving just exactly like a dog on an obstacle course at the Crufts Rescue Dog Challenge in Birmingham, England. To be clear, the dogs that did a “better job” running that obstacle course—for instance by attempting to complete or even actually completing the obstacles—were also acting like dogs. It’s a virtual lock that any videos of those dogs doing the obstacle course would be delightful as well, but the reason that Kratu, a Carpathian-Mioritic mix rescued from what his owner described as “a very dangerous situation” in Romania, delivered such a powerful run comes down to the fact that he seemed somehow more like a dog than the rest.

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In this context, that means he bounded over the hurdles he wanted to bound over and ignored the others, took wide and leisurely detours from the course to sniff the laps of human strangers, repeatedly returned to a particular tube obstacle and repeatedly refused to leave it. It was an avant-garde approach to running an obstacle course, and yet there was transparently no calculation involved. Sometimes, his owner told Crufts’ website, Kratu does very well on his agility courses. Other times, as above, he does something else.

In 2018, at the same event, Kratu revealed some of his signature moves—The Introduction, The Tunnel Bafflement, The Refusal—in a strikingly similar approach to the course. The cumulative effect is about the same:

“He is a natural clown and performer,” his owner said. “He is quite naughty, too.” What this means is that Kratu climbs and clamors and tries to steal toys that he’s not supposed to have. He does what he’s told sometimes, too, but is happier when he’s doing what he enjoys doing most, which to hear his owner describe it, is everything a goofy dog would do: “Hiding under my clothes when I get dressed and squealing. He loves a ball. He loves squeaky toys. Doing what he wants when he feels like it. He is a free spirit which cannot be contained.”

What we are dealing with, here, is a dog. Watch him go. Watch him do what he wants to do, as joyfully as he can possibly do it. The moment calls out for it, and Kratu answered. Not because you asked, but because he could not have done anything else.

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About the author

David Roth

David Roth is an editor at Deadspin.