I was taking my morning “hike” down by the marina, noticing fellow hikers with their dogs. A man in front of me was walking briskly while his graying Chihuahua struggled to keep up. He never looked back to see whether he was keeping up, needing to pee or otherwise present. I had to wonder about his capacity for empathy. And then again, maybe the dog was alive because his person walked him briskly, no excuses, every day.
Further down the path, two homeless people, one with bright pink hair, sat on a bench that sheltered a small brown dog with a flowered bandana around his neck. How many times had I seen people shake their heads at the sight of a street person with a dog. The judgment that “if you can’t afford to take care of yourself, you shouldn’t have a dog!” was part and parcel of the head-shaking. Would their lives or the dog’s life be better were they not together?
He looked like a Highland Terrier…the owner, I mean. Tall, white bearded with Andy Rooney eyebrows. Walking ahead of his charge, impatient and grumpy, I wondered how his dog got through the day with Mr. Grump. Well, maybe his back hurt this morning and all he wanted to do was get home, put the dog in his lap and take a nap.
My Daddy loved animals. When he was little, he built pens for dogs he would rescue, dreaming one day of being a veterinarian. Those dogs were his world…a kind world where he was loved unconditionally every single minute of the day. Imagine his world without dogs? He taught me to love them too and I was never without a dog until I moved to the city a few years ago. Golden Retrievers, Bulldogs, Dalmations, Dachshunds, Heinz 57 varieties…I’ve had them all. They cushioned life, showed me how to love and to survive loss and dare to love again.
What would the world be without dogs? What if loving each other were that easy and effortless? Maybe there should always be a dog present in every person’s life. What amazing things could happen?