Last week I offered up a rant about IDPs (irresponsible dog people). Today we’re going to talk about the hope for a kindler gentler nation pawpulated by people who get it.
We love to walk in a nearby park, which we call Rush Creek for the name of the creek flowing alongside our favorite trail. While I wouldn’t classify the area we live in as a concrete jungle, Rush Creek Park offers a welcome respite from the noise and clamor of busy streets, apartment complexes, and neighborhoods. Lots of birds wing in and around the trees; waterfowl more commonly seen at lakes can be spotted occasionally; redheaded woodpeckers hammer away, much to the delight of the local birdwatching club; and the ever-present squirrels chatter and scurry about.
Tricia (that would be my lovely wife) recently had series of encounters with a baby squirrel, which would pop its head out of a knothole to stare at her thoughtfully. Such a cute little guy! I got to see him once and was instantly jealous. Does that set the scene for you? It’s a lovely place to dial down the tempo of our fast-paced lives so we can walk and talk calmly about family issues, hopes, and dreams, or just be still and appreciate the beauty. The other things we like about Rush Creek Park are the dogs.
We do see evidence of unseen dogs having been on the trail (close encounters of the first kind), so we know that a few IDPs have unfortunately found the park, but this is happily a minority. Most often we get to see some really grrrrific dogs (close encounters of the second kind) and almost without exception, the people who walk their dogs at Rush Creek are very mindful of their dogs and exhibit proper leash control as we pass.
The best days, however, are when we get to have a close encounter of the third kind (making contact). Just a few weeks ago, in January, we got to meet a very special dog.
Sophie is a rescue, a beautiful Golden Retriever with a hitch in her gait, possibly from having been hit by a car or abused. The woman who rescued Sophie was so loving and protective of her new charge. As she told us Sophie’s story, you could tell she was the real deal -– a person of substance; someone who gets it. Gets that dogs have value. Gets that dogs are dignified, living creatures who deserve better than they get from much of society.
Bringing Sophie to the park was an integral part of a conscious training regime to teach her proper leash etiquette, while also allowing carefully monitored interactions with other dogs and people. This owner had thought things through carefully and was following a well-crafted plan. We spent about fifteen minutes loving on Sophie and being loved on in return, while her rescuer took us through the challenges of restoring he trust and confidence. Little things, like gradually increasing the amount of time and the range for Sophie to be off her leash: “I don’t want to give Sophie more responsibility than she can handle.”
We walked away, confident that Sophie would learn responsibility, because her rescuer was an excellent example. How could we be so sure of that from just one encounter? Trust me, if you saw them together, you would be sure of it, too. I don’t know whether this woman’s approach to dog rescue is the “right” way or “best” way, but if Sophie were given a vote, I feel sure she would answer in the affirmative.
As Tricia and I continued our walk, we were able to observe Sophie continue to play under her rescuer’s watchful, loving eyes. Can you see it? Golden sunlight playing across green grass, broken into radiant patches by the branches of the trees. Bathed in dappled sunlit splendor, Sophie and her rescuer playing and teaching and learning and loving.
Have you had a close encounter of the third kind with a special dog not your own? Were you charmed by an obvious bond of human and dog that you could have inserted into a classic film like Lassie Come Home or Greyfriars’ Bobby? I want to read those kinds of stories. We all need to read those kinds of stories. To know there are people of substance out there, who are living up to the lost art of being responsible.
I know we have our own stories about our relationships with our dogs. But we also need to know that those types of relationships are happening elsewhere, down the street or at the local park or in the chance encounter you witnessed while traveling. I don’t want to live in a world, which only has close encounters of the first kind marked with dog poop left behind by an IDP. I don’t just want to see dogs and their people and hope that seeing is believing.
People who get it are out there, aren’t they? Restore our faith. Share your close encounters of the third kind. Who knows? We might just find a story worthy of being Steven Spielberg’s next movie. We know he likes the title.