Friday, March 06, 2009

Oh, the kindness of strangers!

I grew up on a farm where we had a dog nearly all the time. Mind you, not the same dog. We also lived on a busy highway and most of our dogs learned a final, brutal lesson about crossing the road. At any rate, I am no stranger to dogs. I really do love dogs.

Now, Reagan is a HUGE dog fan. Loves. Them. To. Pieces. That is, as long as they stay out of her face. Since Reagan’s face and a dog’s face are often on the same level, she gets a bit nervous if they get too excited to see her. But if they keep their big sniffy nose away from her sniffy nose then she’s happy as a clam. Nothing gives her more delight than to see a dog when we are on a walk. She points and exclaims, “A doggie! A doggie!” And then inevitably she begins to “speak” to the dog by woofing at it. Yes, its adorable.

We’re going through a bit of a summer-weather spell here. I promised Reagan we would go to the park so mid-morning we set out to walk the 6-7 blocks to our favorite park. I made it a whole two blocks when I saw him. Running loose. Chasing anything that moved. Totally unattended. I watched as he sprung across the street and through several yards. There was no way to tell which house he really belonged to.

He stopped on the opposite side of the street when he saw us. He froze. I froze. And we stared at each other. Reagan caught sight of him and began immediately barking and woofing. I shushed her.

See, as much as I love dogs, I’m not comfortable with unattended unfamiliar unattached animals. There was just no telling if this was a friendly doggie or one who was overly aggressive. And there were just too many factors making me way too nervous about this whole situation.

First, he was not a very small dog. He was medium-sized and very energetic.

Second, I am pushing my sweet, but naive, little girl in a stroller which she is strapped into quite securely. It would take me a little bit of time to get her out if he approached and was indeed unfriendly.

Third, I am pregnant and I waddle and I do not run. I mean, yeah, I suppose I COULD if I HAD to, but it would not be pleasant or really all that fast. Certainly not faster than Lassie.

I stood on the sidewalk for several minutes, staring down the dog across the street. And made the decision to do what was safest and smartest in this situation. I walked up the driveway immediately to my right, never taking my eyes off the over-eager canine watching my every move. Calmly and quickly I unfastened Reagan’s seat belt and picked her up. Which is when he crossed the street.

I walked swiftly into the open garage walk door and shut it just in time to block his curious nose from any personal inspection. I knocked on the door to the house so that I might explain my intrusion to any occupants who might be home.

Which is when Martha answered the door. I apologized for interrupting and explained that we were just on a walk and were being pursued by a loose dog. She smiled warmly and immediately invited us inside. We stood inside and looked out the window at the dog as he roamed around her yard and the yard across the street. She told me it was the neighbor’s dog, but that she didn’t know just how friendly he was. As we watched him skitter about the neighborhood - it was clear he wasn’t just going to “go away” - especially when he lived just across the street - Martha told me how glad she was that I had stopped. She didn’t blame me one bit. And we began to chat.

We exchanged names and talked a little about who we were related to and where we lived and where we went to church. Reagan interjected every so often to make a comment of her own - usually something about a park and a swing. Martha invited us in and had us sit at her kitchen table. “This grandma always has cookies!” she said as she held out the tuperware container filled with treats. Which is when Reagan decided this unplanned/unannounced stop on the way to the park was pretty okay with her. We ate our cookies and noted the dog was still very much around. She offered to go out and distract him while we continued on our way.

So all three of us went outside. I strapped Reagan in the stroller and Martha walked to the edge of her driveway. The dog approached and she yelled at him to go home. She stomped her foot and he gave an unfriendly woof of an answer. I was not at all sure this was such a good idea. But I continued slowly on the sidewalk, ready to pick up and haul hiney back to the safety of Martha’s garage. She continued to holler at him when he would approach. She’d stomp and he’d bark. I turned the corner and headed up the street as fast as absolutely possible - calling out my sincere thanks to Martha and then walking much faster than I should have in my current state.

For 4 blocks I pushed that stroller faster and harder than I knew I could. And I looked back over my shoulder so many times I probably should have just walked backwards. It wasn’t until we were at the park that I let myself relax. That pleasant little stroll to the park was a lot more of a workout than I had intended it to be.

I’m sure some will think I was just a big chicken. And yes, maybe I was. But I am not sorry and I am not embarrassed. I will never apologize for being protective of my daughter.

But also, Martha was a really lovely and kind lady and I’m glad I got to meet her. Now whenever we walk by I’ll be able to smile, wave and have some conversation with her. I’m just so thankful to live in a town where I am not afraid to go knock on a stranger’s door when I need a little help. And I’m even more thankful to live in a town where a stranger’s kindness greets me with a wave of warmth, welcome and hospitality. What an unexpected blessing!

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