A few days ago on April 1, Millie turned two. She’s a teenager in Golden Retriever years. By the way, I’m about 300 in dog years.
Last year right around the time she turned one, a homeless woman appeared on our block at the shelter right around the corner. The first time she encountered me and Millie on our morning walk she shrank back in terror. I can understand being afraid of dogs. . . but afraid of Millie? The sweetest-looking (and sweetest) dog on the planet? The quintessential Golden Retriever? Loyal, kind, affectionate to a fault?
Well, I thought, easing Millie away from the woman, maybe she had a bad experience with a dog when she was little. “It’s not your fault, Mil,” I said. She looked genuinely hurt. No one had ever been afraid of her. As we walked away she kept looking over her shoulder at the woman as if she wanted to make things all right.
On later encounters we would quietly cross the street to avoid any unpleasantness. But this being New York that kind of evasion isn’t always practicable in tight urban quarters. One day the woman and Millie came face to face. They both stopped and stared.
Finally the woman asked, “Do she bite?”
“Never,” I said, patting my dog’s flanks.
That was that and we went our separate ways. Until one walk when I had stopped to chat with a neighbor. Millie was sitting politely behind me. A little too politely. I turned to see the woman petting Millie’s head awkwardly, Millie obliging happily.
The next time we saw her she tried to share a piece of bologna sandwich with Millie until I explained that it might not be good for dogs. I brought treats along for the next time we met so she could give Millie something. What a huge smile that encounter brought forth from both the woman and Millie.
A little earlier this spring the woman stopped us one day on our morning walk. “I’m getting my own place,” she said, more to Millie than to me. “I got approved.” It was the perfect time to let Millie give the woman a high five. The woman was duly amazed by this little trick. Then she said, “I’m thinking of getting a dog…one of them shelter dogs, a stray, kinda like me.”
I’m writing this on Easter weekend because it is the time we celebrate resurrections. Yes, the celebration of the historic resurrection of Christ above all. But also all the other resurrections in our lives—resurrections of faith, family, health, finances, dreams and above all, the resurrection of hope.
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