Sometimes my dog Lola drives me crazy. It was a chilly Tuesday and we had already been for an hour long walk earlier in the day. Then suddenly she was whining and spinning like she was full of beans and needed to get out there again. And it wasn't the, "my butt's about to explode" kind of whining. There's a difference. I really was in no mood to go for yet another walk in the cold, but as I cannot resist her sad eyes I geared up for a trot around the hood.
I didn’t think we’d be gone for long so I didn’t bother bringing my mittens. Mistake. Lola was extra pully and I had to hold a firm grip on the leash to keep her in a heel. It felt like my fingers were going to snap off. And I had to pee. As we turned the corner at the half way point I picked up the pace. I couldn’t wait to get home and plop myself in front of the tv and open that bottle of merlot on the counter.
We were two blocks from home when I heard the whining. As I got to the stop sign it had become a full on whail. I looked across the street to my right and saw an elderly woman standing alone, hunched over bawling her eyes out. I looked at her, looked at Lola, thought of my sofa and what did I do? I kept on walking.
Lola didn’t take her eyes off me. I got about 20 feet when I couldn’t stand myself anymore. So I turned around and went back to the corner. I called across the street to her, “hello? Are you ok?” Duh. Obviously she wasn’t.
But I’d done my duty and asked her, now couldn’t I continue on my way? What if this is a crazy person? What if she asks me for money, follows me home or gives me kooties? I did not want to make this my problem.
But damn it, she kept on crying. So after several calls from across the street, I crossed over to her.
It turns out all she needed was someone to let her vent. She’d had a bad day. She felt like people on the bus were giving her “dirty looks”. And she’d taken the bus three hours to get to and from an appointment. Her feet hurt. She was finding the daily news about the world to be depressing. She had just moved to a new seniors home and didn’t know any of her neighbours. She felt alone. She said in the time she’d been standing there crying four other people had passed right by her without stopping. (Gulp, I was almost the fifth!).
I nodded in understanding, because I relate to where she was coming from. We all have those days when the little difficulties and inconveniences of daily life build up and need to bust out somehow. So I asked her about the good parts of her life. She’d just had a birthday and her friend had taken her out for a slice of pie. ”What a great friend!”, I said. She agreed and told me all about the kind of pie they had and the macramae project she was working on. I told her to stop reading the newspaper. Before I knew it she was smiling and laughing and we were having a nice chat. She thanked me and said she now felt much happier.
I for one felt great. Maybe I had needed a reset on my compassion button; a reminder that small acts of kindness will put a pep in my step. It turned out to be a selfish exercise and I hope I run into her again because I want to know how those neighbours are treating her.
It never would have happened had it not been for Lola. She acted as my moral compass. She makes me do things that I never used to do, like go for walks and get to know my neighbours. She’s got that sixth sense that a lot of dogs seem to have. But she still drives me crazy sometimes.
Coincidentally, I just finished reading The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. If you love dogs or can relate to going through a tough time or if you just love a good cry you have got to read this book. It made me weep.