He is walking towards us at the park where Ellie, my golden retriever, and I walk. It is quiet. Not many people out on this blustery January afternoon, even though the weather is uncharacteristically warm. I am conscious of Ellie’s tendency to want to greet everyone we pass and so I shorten her leash and hold on tightly.
As I have made a commitment to greet everyone we pass on the trail, I smile as we approach each other and say, “Hello.”
I’m not expecting much of a response. He doesn’t look like he’s in the mood for greetings of the Ellie kind so I am surprised when he stops and says hello back and asks if he can say hello to Ellie who is straining at her leash.
I smile and let her bound over to him. At 11, Ellie doesn’t know she’s a senior citizen. She leans into his legs, squirms and groans and makes noises as if to say, “Oh thank you thank you. No one ever pays attention to little ole’ me.”
Ellie is a con artist.
The man laughs, takes off his gloves and rubs her haunches. Ellie is in heaven.
“She loves people,” I tell him.
“I can tell,” he says and then he bends down and looks her in the face and rubs her ears. He looks up at me. “I used to have a retriever. She wasn’t as big as this one. I had to let her go last July.” And he rubs Ellie’s head some more.
She has become uncharacteristically quiet, as if she knows exactly what is needed without my having to remind her to calm down. “It was hard. My wife passed away just before that. Been married 48 years. Kids are all moved away.” And he stands up and looks at me and says, “Not many people stop to say hello out here.”
He places one hand on Ellie’s head as if in benediction. “Thank you,” he says before walking away.
And I don’t know if he’s talking to Ellie or me or his pet who is no longer here or his wife who passed away.
And it doesn’t matter. In our encounter I am reminded. Expect the unexpected. There’s always an opportunity to stop and make a difference, even when you least expect it.
I firmly believe that the Universe guides us to the right place at the right time, as this encounter most certainly was. I can only guess at how Ellie lightened his heart this day. The stopping to offer a friendly word or greeting, I need to do more of it… to be aware of and connect with those I encounter. Beautiful, heartwarming post, Louise!
And I am still smiling too Josie!
I’m glad you’re walking with me here. Your presence makes a difference.
This is so precious! Maybe if I walked my dogs after sun-up I’d have a similar experience.
LOL Megan — after sun-up does help 🙂
Challenging at this time of year when it’s dark so long!
Oh and btw Megan – I really really like your poem on the Cardinal today on your blog — I couldn’t see the comment box so wanted to make sure I let you know. I love the analogy, the imagery and the symmetry of your words.
Telling the story also makes a difference.
Thank you Nance — what a lovely perspective and thought 🙂
Lovely post, reaffirming there is goodness in the unexpected. And I love how our animals teach us grace.
I truly marvel at those 48 years of marriage.
Yes, they do teach us grace don’t they Maureen — lol – between C.C. and me cumulatively we can’t add up our married years to 48!