It's better to bother

Recently, my dog and I were enjoying a nice peaceful walk by ourselves in the cool morning when I saw, up ahead on the road, two large dogs roaming from yard to yard, an indication they were loose and on a spree. I didn’t recognize them—I know almost all the dogs that get walked in our neighborhood—and I didn’t want to deal with them.

In part, I was worried for my own dog—we call her “a chronic victim” (meaning she has gotten picked on by aggressive dogs)—but also, the day before, my husband and I had corralled two (other) loose dogs and had to call the owner and wait for him to pick them up. While that had felt good, on this day, with no husband to help and no extra leashes with me, and also because I just wanted to enjoy the walk with my own dog, I turned down another street to avoid the two escape artists. They would find their way home, right? 

My dog and I skipped along and settled back into our rhythm under sunshine and clear skies. Then....sure enough, the two dogs suddenly reappeared and ran toward us. One was black and looked like a boxer, and the other was light brown and looked like a shepherd mix. They didn’t seem aggressive—no growls or fur standing up on their backs—but still I yelled, “No!” and shooed them away with my hands, putting myself between them and my dog. “No!” They flinched and retreated.

Good, I thought, that’s over. They would find their way home, right?

My dog and I continued, and the two dogs disappeared down another street. We were free and alone again, back to our walk, the interruptions and nuisances now over. We saw the hills in the distance green with grass and the light shimmering on the street. I thought of all the things I was grateful for, listing them off in my head: my health, my family, my house, my safety, this day. Recently, I had talked to someone who makes gratitude a daily habit. As well, she’d talked about how she looks for something kind to do for someone else every single day. Every single day.

And then...there they were again, the two escape artists, trotting toward us, tongues hanging out. Life was giving me something to do, and I realized I could no longer ignore it. “Come here,” I said reluctantly, bending down as they approached. I petted them and reached for the tag of the black boxer to read the phone number listed, then dialed it. When a male voice answered, I said, “I got your number on—"

“You have the dogs, don’t you?” he interrupted. I heard worry in his voice. 

I described what street I was on while he and his girlfriend got into their car, and I gave them directions. They were kind and kept thanking me. They lived several miles away and weren’t familiar with my neighborhood.

“Do you want me to stay on the phone while you drive?” I asked.

“I’d really appreciate that,” the girlfriend said.

The dogs were still bent on roaming, and without leashes, I had no choice but to follow them so their owners would know their location. The dogs chased a cat up a tree, then sped on. We went down one street, and then down another. 

As the owners made their way to us, one of my neighbors, walking her own dog, came upon us, and with her help, we corralled the dogs. She held onto the boxer while I held the shepherd mix, whose name by then I knew was Pickles.  

Eventually, after a few wrong turns, the owners drove up to where we were all standing. The girlfriend and boyfriend popped out of the car, the girlfriend thanked me profusely and got Pickles from me, the boxer jumped into the vehicle, the boyfriend high-fived me, and suddenly the whole thing was over, and they were driving off into the rest of the morning. Through all the hustle and bustle, I hadn’t paid attention to when the thing happened that I should have known would happen all along: I was happy to help. It had been worth it, bothering. The owners’ gratitude to me had filled me with its own kind of joy. Now the dogs were home home safely, with owners who cared about them and wanted them back. 

In the end, it hadn’t felt like a bother at all. My dog and I walked the rest of the way in silence, under the same skies and same light, but everything seemed brighter, richer, better.

This blog post was published in the Johnson City Press in today's issue (August 4, 2015).