The goodness of strangers

My dog Sasha has been growing quite deaf over the past few months.  A few times recently, I’ve had a little trouble getting her attention when we’re walking, or when I want her to do something in the house.  She has also been a little snappy with Jack, which I attribute to her sense of confusion over auditory clues, but all things considered, she’s a very fit 15 year old terrier/shepherd mix.

Tuesday morning, we headed out for our usual morning walk, earlier than usual in an attempt to beat the heat, which exhausts both dogs.  Maybe that’s why we ran into the runner with his Airedale, a fit military looking guy, with a fit and nicely clipped dog.  They were running at an easy pace up the hill and I moved my dogs off to the side to wait for them to pass, as is our custom, since Sasha can’t hear me anymore at all.  Just easier and less confrontational to move off the main road and let the others pass. 

We do this at least two or three times every single day.  I have treats. They sit down.  We have a treat, the dogs and owners move on…no big deal.

But for some reason, this encounter went somewhat differently.  Sasha snagged a treat, and then saw the dog and wanted to get to him, and then–

A perfect storm. A dogwalker’s worst scenario.  Sasha started barking, riling herself up, then Jack joined in, as he does (it never occurs to him unless Sasha starts it) and the man was passing by with his (very well behaved) Airedale.   I noticed that Jack’s leash was a little bit too long and started to rein it in, and somehow, Sasha slipped her harness. 

I lunged for her, hanging on to Jack, and shouted a warning to the man, but the rest is all a big loud blur of shouts and crashes. Sasha went after the Airedale, who held his own and the runner man had a walking stick he used to beat her away, and I was lunging for her and then somehow, I was on the ground and holding on to Jack who thought he should be defending me and Sasha, and—

It was terrible.  Somehow, I got my hands into Jack’s fur and hauled him off and Sasha finally got tired of the whole thing and headed down the sidewalk toward two older women, and Jack sat down next to me like nothing ever happened.  The women huddled on the side of the path and I got up (somehow, I was on the ground, still not sure how that happened) and called to them, “Will you catch her? She won’t hurt you?”  And then I was looking at the Airedale, so beautiful and well behaved, who gave me a look like, “What riff-raff!” and I apologized profusely to the man, who was understandably very upset.

The two women brought Sasha to me and found my water bottle.  I gave the man my name and told him I’d pay for any vet bills he incurred (of course) and we all looked at the dogs, who all seemed to be out of breath but nobody damaged in any big way that was immediately evident.  No blood anywhere on the sidewalk, no ears or lips torn.    No gashes bleeding dramatically.  (Thank God!)

The man jogged on, and the two women, very concerned with me now, fetched my water bottle and asked me over and over again if I was okay.  I was shaky and freaked out, but fine, and I thanked them, madly.  They kept saying, “we saw it all. It wasn’t your fault, they were just doing what dogs do. Are you sure you’re okay?”

With Sasha firmly harnessed, we headed home, taking a shortcut because I was wrecked, and it did turn out Sasha had a big bleeding puncture on her hip.  It didn’t seem to hurt her at all, but it needed doctoring.  As we headed down the street toward home, I noticed I was spitting out dirt, and my lip felt funny, and it turned out my lip and chin were skinned and bleeding and covered with dirt, where I landed on my face at some point, though I have no memory of it at all.  (Could have been worse.  Lots of prickly pears in that field.)

I cleaned Sasha’s wound, got everyone settled and washed my face.  Bruises here and there–a skinned knee and the banged up face and, in the morning, a lot of sore muscles that must have come from lunging and twisting and being yanked.

But all day, I waited for the call from the Airedale’s owner.  I was so worried about him, and crushed that my dogs had been so bad and hurt another dog.  It broke my heart. 

The phone call never came.  I decided that must mean the dog was okay.  And I went out and found Sasha a different harness ( a sporn) so I can control her more certainly, but I’m also not going to walk them together anymore.   One dog at at time.  Which we tried this morning.

Jack and I headed out at seven, very early for us. He was an absolute angel, completely relaxed, even when dogs passed right beside us on the sidewalk.  He even moved off the path and sat down without being told.   He wanted to prove to me what an angelic and honorable dog he is, I suppose, and it was convincing. 

As we rounded a part of one park, I suddenly recognized the dark haired runner coming toward us.  We both stopped.  Jack sat down instantly, earnestly demonstrating how very well mannered he is, as if he was embarrassed, as if he’d had too many tequila shots that day and now…well.  Now he’s fine. 

I asked, “How is your dog? Is he okay?”  On rest, he said, limping a little.  Somebody got him on the leg, underneath.  Had to have a stitch.  

Again, I apologized profusely and asked him to send me the bill. 

And then he said, “Oh, no. I could see how emotional it was for you, too.  I’m not that guy,” he said. “What if we all just stop and don’t make things more traumatic or terrible than they have to be?”

Thank you, I said to him.  And thank you I say again to him now.  Runner guy with the Airedale, who took the high road.   I will never forget it, and I hope I have the grace and honor to extend forgiveness at that level when it is my turn.   I am also grateful to the two women who stopped, the good Samaritins, and helped me when I was so shaken.

Have you ever had an encounter of this nature, where strangers offered so much for nothing at all?

photo Wolf Dog by storm gal

9 thoughts on “The goodness of strangers

  1. Mel

    What a good guy! Good Karma coming his way, and yours for being a good dog owner in the face of bad dog harness. Hope you’re all recovering. Poor pooches just being pooches all round.

  2. So glad to hear that the injuries weren’t worse and that the other dog owner was so fair and compassionate. The emotional trauma, that usually takes some healing, doesn’t it? Hugs.

  3. Jill

    This is more the kindness of acquaintances than the kindness of strangers, but I just witnessed it today so it is fresh in my mind.
    I was at the post office (or as I like to call it “the unhappiest place on earth”) early this morning to pick up a package. It was so early that they hadn’t opened yet, but there were still three people in line ahead of me. One of them was an elderly Asian man waiting patiently in line.
    Finally, the big metal curtain comes up and the postal clerks are getting ready at their stations. One middle-aged African-American female clerk sees the elderly Asian guy and she breaks into this big smile and says something to him in what I can only assume is his native language. They had a short conversation. It was probably only “hello, how are you?” “Good thanks, and you?” “Good, thanks” or something else along those lines. Still it made me feel good.

  4. Barbara

    Jill, that’s a beautiful example! Thanks.

  5. Patricia

    Barbara, Glad you (& dogs) are OK. One example I remember happened at a Dodgers game. My daughter’s school (for special needs kids) had tickets to a daytime game, but, the seats were at the very top of the Stadium–definitely, nosebleed seats. My Down’s Syndrome daughter (Lisa) has several medical challenges, including Fibromyalgia, which causes occasional dizziness, which happened that day. When she initially became dizzy, I mentioned to the teachers that I was taking her home (I had driven my own car). Though I was holding onto her hand, she was listing side-to-side. I was trying to keep her in a forward motion, but, it had become difficult. I was wondering how long it would take to arrive at the car, when 2 senior women asked if I needed help. When I explained the situation, they offered to walk on Lisa’s other side, hopefully, keeping her moving forward, which they did. It took quite a bit of time, & they were with us every minute of the way. I thanked them profusely, & was extremely grateful for their help. I remember silently wondering who else would have made this offer. Thankfully, there are good, caring people out there.

  6. Lee Duncan

    Barbara — Poor Sasha! Poor you! How nice of those women to catch Sasha for you — especially after just seeing her tangle with the other dog. And the man turned out okay, even if he did use his stick. I bet he hated that part.
    I try to be ‘that other person’ and at times, it seems, people with the same specific need cross my path. Maybe it’s because we lost my mother-in-law to Alzheimer’s last year or maybe it’s just fate, but lately, it’s been a series of little old ladies like the g’ma in her nightgown, shopping at my local grocery store at 9 in the morning last week. I don’t know if it was the threadbare pink gown and furry slippers that caught my eye or the way she gazed unseeing into the frozen section while her purse sat opened and unguarded in her cart or the seriously tatted young man with punked out hair and wearing black leathers who lingered nearby, but granny needed help. In the fifteen minutes we chatted, she lamented her husband’s passing and proudly pulled bowling awards from her bag while I helped her choose some microwave meals. When she began to get antsy — the way dementia patients sometimes do — I left her, but spoke with both the store manager and bag boys on my way out so they would look out for her (and tat boy who had quickly moved on). But the encounter affected me so much that I called our local Alzheimer’s Assoc. when I got home and asked, “What more could I have done?”

  7. Patricia, and all this time later, you remember! Beautiful.

    Lee, your story brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for being that person. What did the Alz. ass tell you to do?

    We can all be the change we want to see in the world. I will be looking for chances to be kind.

  8. Amanda Reynolds-Smith

    What a story Barbara..!

    I had an experience some years ago (goodness, it seems a millenium in the scheme of things!)as a fairly meek and mild seventeen year old travelling via train to meet a relative for a much awaited holiday in the country.

    Expecting a leisurely trip to the station where we had planned a lazy lunch, my journey ended up tumultuous and completely nerve juangling. My friend and chauffer had had a(minor – her fault)car accident and the less than understanding owner of the barely dingled other car had hailed a tyraid of profanity down on both of us, arms waving as if he were a marionette puppet in a tornado and was generally very threatening to my quiet seventeen year old sensibilities!

    Needless to say I arrived at the train station with my body and sould severly disquieted, no time for lunch and my daily dose of adrenalin well drained.

    I was desperate fell the whoosh of the closing doors to the cocoon of the carriage and to find my cosy single bottom chair where I could disappear into the world of my latest adventure(I think it was a Victoria Holt novel!)…

    My friend gone, and the platform announcement signalling five minutes until boarding time, I rummaged around my enormous tote for the ticket, shuffle shuffle, the thwick thwack of wallet, keys, book, hairbrush jostling against each other… my stomach turned to stone… I had lost/fogotten/misplaced my ticket.

    The tears that had waited patiently at the corners of my eyes for the previous two hours surged forth and exploded through my “girl in control” mask… it was the final straw.

    Sobbing, I ran to the station master’s office (they had one then!( and tried to explain my situation… and that I had no ride home, I had to make this train and did they have a record of my booking etc (this was also prior to everything having several identifying electronic tags)… my booking could not be located quickly then the dreaded sound of the whistle…. “all aboard” the second whistle…

    My hands shook and my mouth dried… it was over. I wasn’t boarding the train for my much anticipated holiday. In that moment, a young woman (I think she may have been early thirties) stepped up beside me and handed me her ticket…

    She told me that she didn’t need it, she would catch the next train (eight hours later!) that evening… I was totally flabbergasted and insisted that I would be fine and that I couldn’t take her ticket… this woman had the aura and calmness of an angel… and to this day, I believe there are angels amongst us and she was one.

    I did take her ticket, her quiet and golden insistence prevailed, I boarded and looked back to again thank her with a smile and she was gone… I have no idea how she did so in that split moment between my boarding and then turning to smile… again, I believe there are true angels amongst us.

    The goodness of strangers… this single act has reminded me so many times in my life that a single act of kindness and generosity of spirit, no matter large or small has far reaching effects.

    I wish I had had the where with all (spelling??!!) to try and take her name and details, I could have done more to thank her… Perhpas for her, the simple moment of quieting someones sheer distress was payment enough…

    As I write this, I wonder what grand things came to her as a result of her spirit and generosity…. I hope many….


  9. Amanda Reynolds-Smith

    Hmmmm – really should spell check before posting! You get the idea anyway I hope!

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