Taking the dog for a walk
The other day while taking the dog for a walk I saw an over-burdened woman approaching us from the same side of the street. She was about twenty yards away, had a big stroller in front of her, two medium-sized dogs on a leash and was talking into a headset. She was getting it done. As Heidi and I stood idling near a tree, I thought I heard her say, “Would you please cross over to the other side of the street?” She hadn’t addressed me in any way or made eye contact, so I figured it was a garbled portion of the conversation she was having on the phone that had nothing to do with me. I didn’t acknowledge her, but drifted across the street all the same, as that was the direction my dog seemed to want to go. After a minute or so of us being on the other side, the woman said, “Thank you,” and continued on.
I was left a little puzzled by it all, slightly dazzled, even. I understand how she had her arms full, particularly if she had aggressive dogs but still, it just seemed so presumptive and impersonal, like her life were an arrow around which the rest of the world– little more than white noise– must part.
I wondered if I might be like that, too. Recently, our dog, a Miniature Dachshund, had urgent back surgery. It’s a very expensive procedure, and the amount of money we spent on that could have been spent elsewhere. After all, there are people who can’t afford back surgery, who can’t afford AIDS medication or a place to live, but we chose to spend the money on our pet—a creature some might describe as a servant whose job is to love. Whether this was an ethical expenditure or not is something worth sitting down and thinking about, as we have, and whatever the arguments one might make, we were simply called to do so—it was an instinctive response to love.
I was rolling all of this over as we continued up the street, thinking about entitlements, privilege, exclusion and the monetary valuation of life, eventually coming across a homeless woman in front of the LCBO. She’s a woman I’m friendly with, and due to Heidi’s surgery we hadn’t been out in a few weeks, and this woman—to whom we could have given the money we spent on Heidi’s surgery– hadn’t seen us in quite a while. She was overjoyed to see us and it was as if she was some sort of saint placed there to address my doubts. She began to praise Heidi for her beauty and silky coat, telling me how happy it made whenever she saw us walking up the street. “It’s like a little beam of light shining into my day,” she said, “yes, aren’t you a little beam of light,” she continued, nuzzling her nose next to Heidi’s. And at that moment it began to snow, so soft and lovely, that it felt a blessing of the moment rather than an accident of nature.