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!