human animal bond

When Life Hands You an Opportunity to Practice Human Kindness

When Life Hands You an Opportunity to Practice Human Kindness
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Being must be felt, it can’t be thought. ~Sarah-Jane Farrell

Walking into a thrift store today to search for a hard cover book to use for a creative project I’m embarking on called, Blackout Poetry, I encountered the friendly face of a big dog, with long hair in shades of caramel, black and white.

He was sitting inside the large foyer, his leash tethered to a bench a few feet from the door to the entrance of the store. He stood, wagged his tail and looked up at me with his brown eyes. I stopped to pet him as he lovingly pushed his head into my body. After a few moments of such a sweet connection, I headed through the door toward the used book section.

After finding a book and making my purchase, I headed back out to the foyer, just in time to notice how black the sky had become. Just then it began to thunder followed by heavy sheets of rain, which within moments turned to sleet and then snow. Not having a hood on my jacket I knew I’d wait it out.

It was then I noticed the dog was now attached to a tall, thin older man sitting on the bench. He was wearing a black knit hat and shoes that looked to be pieced together and an unlit cigar hanging from his lips. I stopped and said, “What’s your dogs name?”

“His name is Kulow,” he said. “I named him after the dentist who pulled out all my top teeth.” It was then I noticed he only had about two teeth left that I could see.

He continued, “I got Kulow from a man in a wheelchair. Kulow had accidentally pulled him down the stairs. He had to find a new home for him, but no one wanted him. But I said I’d take him!”

By now the sleet and snow was really coming down. As I continued to stroke Kulow’s soft head, the man said, “What kind of car do you have?”  I thought it an odd question, but told him it was a Chevy Equinox. He said, “Would Kulow and I fit in it?” 

“Ah, probably,” I said hesitantly.

“Would you give us a ride home? I only live about a mile down the road.” 

I hesitated again, not sure if I should and thought about all the groceries that were in the back of my car. And of course, I was concerned about my safety.

But something told me all would be okay.  My heart also went out to the man and his dog having to venture out in this now slippery and sloppy mix that covered the ground. I said, “Sure. I can do that. But do you mind if we wait out this downpour of crazy weather first?”

“Of course!”  he said.

Once it let up a bit, I ran to my car, opened the hatch in the back, and began to throw the bags of groceries over to the backseat so Kulow would have a place to sit.

I drove to the entrance where they waited for me, sprung the hatch open from inside my car, and Kulow jumped in. As the man got in the car, he said, “Wow! This is a nice car. You must have a really nice husband!”

I chuckled and said, “Well, actually, yes, I’m very blessed to be married to a wonderful man.” 

“What’s your first name?”  I asked.

“Alan, but everyone calls me Al.”

I said, “My name’s Barb. Nice to meet you Al.” 

As I drove out the parking lot he said, “It’s nice to meet you too. Normally I ride my three wheel bike, but walked today.”

It was then that I made the connection as the dog seemed familiar to me. I’ve often seen this man riding around town, with the dog beside him, or tied to a tree outside a retail establishment with the man’s bike next to him.

He said, “I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but you are a foxy lady.”  

Blushing, I said, “Oh gosh, thank you. You are sweet.” 

“Really,” he said. “I mean it and if something ever happens to your husband you now know where I live.” 

“Okay,” I said. “I’ll remember that. But I do hope my husband is around for a very long time because I love him very much.” I knew he was having fun with me and meant no harm.

I asked him if he was married. He said he was for ten years. Then he was engaged for thirteen years, but that didn’t work out.

I said, “Are you retired now?” 

He told me he has been on disability since he was 27 years old. He got in a car accident and was in the hospital for nine months. The doctors told him he’d never walk again. 

“But the next day I stood up and the nurses were pissed at me”  he said. 

“I’m sure they were just concerned about you,” I offered.

“Well, I was determined. And you know, I want to live to be 3,000 years old!” 

I chuckled, but also was in awe of the spirit of this man, who seemed like he didn’t have much, and was down on his luck, as we tend to define as a society.

We crossed the busy highway and within minutes he pointed to the brown mobile home on the left side of the road saying this is where he lived. He told me how he often tells the man whose driveway runs next to his house, back into the woods, that he is going to start charging him a toll because his driveway is on his property. I chuckled again.

Pulling in his driveway, I glanced in my rearview mirror to notice Kulow looking out the back window. It touched my heart, reminding me of the few times my Lab, Kylie, sat there.

I popped open the hatch again from the button in my car as Al got out, leaving his door open. Walking to the back, he grabbed Kulow’s leash as the dog jumped to the ground.

Al walked back to the open door with Kulow beside him and the half-lit cigar between his lips again. “Wow! You opened that from inside your car?” 

Smiling I said, “I know. Kind of amazing isn’t it?” 

“You’re a doll,” he said, as he held his hand up in the symbol of peace and closed the door.

A part of me didn’t want to leave. There was just something about this man’s beautiful spirit. I thought about all the times in my life I wouldn’t have done something like this. To pick up a complete stranger and one just by appearance we so often tend to ignore or shy away from. What moments had I missed out on, I wondered?

These moments of practicing what human kindness is all about. Helping another without expecting anything in return.

But therein lies the reward… the gift of this man and his dog, and his infectious spirit despite his appearance, who enriched my soul beyond words.

Thank you, Al. I hope to see you and Kulow again someday soon.

Thanks for reading!



A New Game

A New Game

Yesterday I discovered a new game to play with Gidget. The game itself isn’t new as it’s been around a long time, but new to her and new to me in that I’d not thought of playing this with her until now. We played hide ‘n seek.

Gidget has never liked playing with toys. But a game we’ve played over the years is one in which I get on the floor, rest my butt on my heels and bury my face in my hands. Then I’ll say, “Where’s Gidget?”  Within seconds her snout will find its way into the opening between my arms and my face to “find” me. Funny I call it “Where’s Gidget” as she is the one who is finding me.

As we played “Where’s Gidget” yesterday I remembered seeing a video of people hiding behind doors and calling for their dog to find them. So I thought I’d give it a try. I started out with easy “finds” like going behind the chair in the living room, and then into the laundry room. Then I hid behind the closet door in my bedroom and called for her.

Four times in row she came into the closet, but just to the edge of the door, then back out she’d go again. By this time I’m trying not to laugh. So I called again. When she got to the edge of the door, I called her name again. This time past the door she went, looking straight ahead, but not behind her. Then back out she went again.

Again I called her and into the closet past the door she went, but still didn’t know where I was. Then I called her name again, and as she turned to “discover” me behind the door I shouted, “You “found”  me!”

We will try playing this game again later today as I want to see if she remembers and it takes less tries for her to find me behind the door. Though I think the real trick would be for her to hide and then I’d have to seek!

Photo above is after play and her infamous “stink eye.”  Clearly it was time for rest and I needed to heed the message.



My Dog Gidget’s Lesson on Letting Go

My Dog Gidget's Lesson on Letting Go

I’ve had a pivotal shift.

It might be viewed as a bittersweet letting go, but I’m not seeing it in this way.

When Gidget came to live with me I consulted with my animal communicator friend, Dawn, and had a reading done with Gidget.

I was wondering what perhaps the deeper meaning of our coming together was about. Meaning, what did I need to learn from her and her from me?

Having had many teachings from my pets to date I welcome being open to more lessons that can help me live a more meaningful life.

From the reading with Dawn I came to understand Gidget was in my life to help keep me grounded. Interestingly enough, I am in her life to help her do the same.

When Gidget came to our home over four years ago I’d define her as anxious and fidgety. There was an insecure side to her also and she had a difficult time when I’d leave the house. And might I add I have/had the same tendencies? 🙂 While her tendencies are still true in some aspects, I’ve noticed a shift in her. 

A few weeks ago, as I usually do each morning after she eats her breakfast, I scoop Gidget up from under her blanket on her bed in the kitchen, and off to my Zen writing cottage we go for my yoga practice.

But something stopped me this day. I didn’t want to disturb her and had this selfish feeling come over me for having done so since she has been with me.

While I love having her with me, I wondered if this wanting her near me often was more about myself. And that day I decided to let go – to stop trying to control where or when she decided to be with me.

And you know what happened?  She stays cuddled under her blanket in the kitchen when I do my yoga practice in my writing cottage. In some ways this has been difficult for me because I miss her and miss seeing her sweet face as I move through my practice.

But I’m also realizing it is a lesson for me to stop trying to control things. Gidget has her own agenda too and should be allowed to express that.

Interestingly enough I had this realization reflected back to me when visiting a friend recently. When I pulled in her driveway I saw a cat walking toward me. I thought it was a stray as I’d never seen my friend’s cats out in the yard before.

My friend came outside to greet me and I said, “Is that a stray cat?”  She smiled and said no, it was her cat. Recently having returned from a retreat and she realized she had been trying to control her cat from going outside when she knew in her heart that is what he wanted.

When she surrendered to letting go, she was pleasantly surprised that trusting in what was right for her cat would be okay. And it is. He loves to explore during the day and comes home later in the day.  And their relationship has deepened.

And so it is with Gidget. I’m learning to let go and not hold on so tightly. I know in the past my dogs like a security blanket for me, but also my greatest teachers of learning to step into who I am.

I’m sensing that by my letting go it helps Gidget to learn to feel grounded within herself and dang if that isn’t a mirror to my own grounding that I need, too.

And to add to this beautiful teaching this morning when I came into the house from my yoga practice? Miss Gidget came running from the kitchen to me in a full-out body wiggle. Oh, how my heart exploded!

While she was happy to have her alone time, she was now ready to connect with me, and I with her. What a sweet, sweet deal.

And just after writing this post, then having some lunch, Gidget decided being in Kylie’s kennel is where she’d rather be this afternoon.

And so I learn to let go again and honor her wishes.

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