Of an Unexpected Encounter, and a Lesson Learned

This is not the post I set out to write today, in fact this is about something that is likely to be totally irrelevant for anyone but me, but for once I don’t care. This is my blog, and I’ll break my rules if I want to… and yes, this is another post about pets, about what losing Terri did to me, and about a seemingly small incident that left me absolutely devastated a couple of days later, one that, especially in the aftermath of what happened a few hours ago, made me confront some of my own prejudices. This is the story:

Two days after I was forced to bury my best friend I got a whatsapp message from one of my neighbors, telling me that he had just found an abandoned puppy, and asking me if I wanted her. I replied that while I might be willing to consider the possibility of adopting another dog somewhere down the line, for the time being there was no way I would even be able to contemplate such an option, that my best friend wasn’t even cold in the ground yet, and I wished him luck placing her elsewhere. He said he understood, but the following day I found the puppy wandering alone in front of my door. Given the layout of our respective houses, and the fact that the fencing of his backyard was intended for his two large dogs, I assumed the puppy had just gotten out, and found herself there by chance (the back of his backyard abuts with an abandoned house that is unfenced, and that one is across the street from my own place, meaning that if the puppy had sneaked out of his backyard she would only have had to cross that abandoned house to pop up basically where I found her). Thinking that both my neighbor and his wife –both of whom are teachers, and I had always believed decent human beings– would never abandon a six week old puppy to her fate, I grabbed the little thing, and knocked on their door. The hatred with which I was greeted was almost enough to make me take a step back. The man basically snarled at me that he had told me that he couldn’t keep the puppy. It was an incredibly awkward moment, especially because his six-year-old daughter was there, so he couldn’t exactly refuse to take her back. I apologized for the inconvenience, explained that I had merely assumed that the puppy had gotten out by mistake, and told him that I wouldn’t bring her back if I saw her again.

I left that house –a house belonging to people I deeply respected, and who I considered my friends– with tears in my eyes, determined that, if he abandoned her again, and against my better judgement, the puppy was coming home with me. I admit I was also seething with rage at that blatant manipulation, but what could I do? It wasn’t the puppy’s fault.

Fast forward a couple of hours, and I went out to watch the sunset, like I always do. As I was walking up and down the beach I came across the puppy once more, only now she was not alone. She was surrounded by a group of kids (okay, they were probably in their twenties, but I am getting old, and they looked like kids to me, so sue me). I broke down at the sight, and they invited me to join them, and to hang out with them for a while, telling me that it was okay for me not to be able to take the puppy in, that they understood I needed to process the loss of my best friend before I could even contemplate the possibility of taking in yet another dog, that the puppy actually belonged to one of them, that she had gotten out, and that they had spent a couple of days looking for her, assuming the worst.

It was such a relief, and the last I saw her she was sleeping peacefully, curled up in someone’s jacket. Still, there was no getting around the fact that it was pretty early, and we are talking about a group of kids who were out drinking on a beach, and didn’t exactly come across as the most reliable bunch, so, as I walked away, I wondered if I was doing the right thing. Today I got my answer because as I was walking to the closest thing we have to a general store I ran across the same puppy, who has a very distinctive bald patch between her eyes, making her easy to recognize. She was a lot bigger (obviously), and looked well taken care of, and she was playing with some dogs that are always hanging around a couple of blocks from here. No, I am not a fan of the fact that she is already being allowed to roam free, especially because she is something like four months old, but that’s what most people do around here, so I petted her, smiled, and walked away.

And now we come to my prejudices, and how the whole incident shook them: on the one hand we have a devoted teacher and his wife, an outstanding member of the community by anyone’s standards, and one to whom I literally owe my life (long story), on the other we have a bunch of twenty-somethings getting drunk on a beach before the sun has even set. Who would you expect to be the one to do the right thing?

I am so grateful to those kids, not just for making sure the puppy was fine, and for comforting me in one of my darkest hours, but also for forcing me to confront my own prejudices. It is a lesson I will never forget, one they never even realized they taught me.

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