Of unbridled joy and unconditional trust

Photo: Back Forty Germain Short-Haired Pointers website)

I saw the dog before she saw me. Nose to the ground, she was happily sniffing the newly-released scents of spring. When she raised her head and spotted me, she came bounding joyfully over as if I were a long-lost friend instead of someone she had never laid eyes on before.

She stood on her hind legs, front paws batting playfully at me and tail wagging while little squeals of delight came from her throat. She was a pretty thing. Her head was a velvety chocolate-brown, and from the neck down, her coat was spotted like an Appaloosa horse.

I petted her head and murmured, “Down, girl” while scanning the street for her owner.  But no one was on the street or the front yards of the houses. I decided to keep walking, and she shot out ahead of me, a blur of fur, paws and flapping ears.  She darted into a small, wooded lot between two houses and I thought, “Maybe she’s decided to go home.”  

Before rounding the corner, I turned to see her come out of the woods. She stood stock still, looking up and down the street.  When she saw me, she came to me at breakneck speed.  After greeting me enthusiastically (again), she crossed the street just as a car came around the corner. I waved my arms wildly above my head to ask the driver to slow down. He did but looked at me as if to say, “Put your dog on a leash, crazy lady.” 

“She’s not mine,” I wanted to say. But in that moment, I knew this dog was lost and had put her blind trust in me to keep her safe.  This was faith in humans in its purest form and my heart swelled with gratitude. I doubted any person could have such unconditional belief in the goodness of a stranger.

I crouched down and called her over.  When she came and tried to give me big wet kisses I grabbed her collar and held on tight.  I couldn’t get her to stay still enough to read the phone number on her medal so I decided to head home where Ben could help. We started off and she walked willingly beside me.

As we rounded the corner, we met a young woman walking her own dog.  The two animals made half-hearted, obligatory growling sounds as I asked her, “Do you know this dog’s owner?” She didn’t, but she lived a few houses down and offered to bring her own dog home and help me.

She came back with a leash and we did a dance as I held the collar at arm’s length and she tried to clip it on while staying six feet apart (thank you COVID), all with a dog who thought this was a game. Success!  I pulled out my phone and she read the information on the medal to me.  

“Her name is Alycia,” said the woman and then she rattled it off a phone number.

I made the call and within minutes, Alycia’s owner arrived, grateful to bring the dog home to her heartbroken kids. I waved as I watched them drive away and silently thanked Alycia for making my daily walk a lesson in believing in the goodness of people.

The Tale of a Resilient Squirrel

I nosed my car into a parking spot facing a chain link fence. Massive trees with trunks so thick I couldn’t wrap my arms around them stood on the other side of the fence. As I turned off the ignition, I spotted movement on the side of one of the tree trunks. Soon a squirrel came into view, clinging effortlessly to the bark.

Now this rodent knew how to prepare for winter! His body was as round as a little barrel, but he was still making provisions for the long winter months ahead. Clamped firmly in his mouth was a slice of toasted bread, cut on the diagonal. Who knew squirrels liked toast? I laughed as I pictured a good gust of wind turning the bread into a sail and sending him airborne.

But this was no laughing matter for the squirrel. This was the serious business of stocking food. I leaned closer to the windshield and watched him scamper up the sturdy trunk until he reached an outstretched branch. My lunch-time errand forgotten, I settled back into the driver’s seat for a first-row seat at the show.

Like a skilled high-wire acrobat, he stepped daintily onto the branch. It quivered beneath him and he stopped to steady himself. But his trophy put him off balance and after a few steps, he dropped the bread. Not to be deterred, he turned and began to make his way back down to the ground. That’s when I noticed two other squirrels already on the frozen ground. I held my breath as I waited to see if they would mount a charge to steal the coveted treasure. That just wouldn’t be fair!

I found myself rooting for my little friend, silently urging him to hurry. I don’t know how things work in the squirrel world, but the other two squirrels didn’t try to snatch the prize. Is there an unwritten code that finders are keepers in the squirrel universe? Or was “my” squirrel’s dominance established and therefore he was not to be challenged?

Whatever the reason, with the slice of toast once again firmly in his mouth, he began the climb anew. I cheered as he made it back to the branch. He seemed to gain confidence and, with the agility of a circus performer, he leapt onto the branch of a neighboring tree. His treasure still intact, he soon disappeared from sight to hide his well-earned treat.

Well, that was entertaining, I thought. But as I left the car and started walking to my destination, I realized it was more than that. It was a lesson in persistence.  Seeing a tiny creature act on the words “Don’t give up” or “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” was humbling. I guess it’s time I get back to those writing goals.

Written for the December 16th “Word of the Day Challenge”:  Charge