The clerk guided me to where the spray was and they only had one brand and it’s one that I don’t use. I rolled out of the store and past the man and his dog who were now at the counter. I went to the outer lobby where Joe had designated for me to wait while he went to get the car. The man came by and again the dog stopped and looked at me. He didn’t sniff, he just looked at me. The fellow then began to speak about his dog.
He told me that he was HIV+ and that his dog had saved his life several times. He said that he had been fighting depression and the dog who cares for him also needs care from him. “He gets me up every day and gets me out every day. Without him, I’d simply die alone on the couch.” I started to speak but he cut me off and began telling me about how he’s been dealing with both his physical and mental health.
I admit here shamefacedly that I was annoyed.
I had wanted to speak.
I had something to say.
I pushed that annoyance aside with the sudden, overwhelming realization that yes, I did have something to say but I also had people to listen. Just listen.
So, I listened. I contributed by showing that I was attending closely to what he was saying, nodding in agreement or shaking my head in incomprehension at the cruelty of others, it was like a dance, he led, I followed.
Then the words stopped.
He was done.
He asked me if I was waiting for WheelTrans and I said that I was waiting for my husband and as I said that word Joe appeared at the door. Given that it’s winter and given I was in my manual chair, I need a lot more help. The two of them worked to get the door open and keep it open while I went backwards down a steep ramp. Everyone wished each other a Merry Christmas and we went out separate ways.
That dog knew.
He sniffed me out.
Then he sought me out.
He just stopped walking and looked at me as if to say, “could you be a human being right now?” He knew his master need to talk to someone, to make contact with someone.
I had been chosen.
I had been chosen by a dog. In my mind, there is no higher compliment and no greater honour.
It’s Christmas Eve, let’s give the gift of listening, really attentive listening, to each other.
It’s what the dogs of the world want.