The Power of a Dog

    It wasn’t long after Sammi and I moved to Niagara Falls that we got used to having a car pull up beside us and an occupant asking me for directions.  I guess having a dog is a bit like wearing a sign saying “this person is local,” and people figure you’re a good bet to know the area.  I have to admit that at first, I unintentionally gave out a few mis-directions, but I’m pretty good at it now.
    We also, when our walks take us to the Falls, have gotten used to complete strangers stopping and asking if they can talk to Sammi, or pet her.  The standard explanation is, “We had to leave our dog at home,” always spoken in wistful tones.  So, I spend a couple of minutes talking about our dogs with these strangers, and when they’ve had their dog fix, we part.
    There are also people, though fewer of them, who ask if they can take Sammi’s picture.  Interestingly, these people don’t always have dogs of their own, but just want a picture of mine in front of the Falls, for some reason or other.  So, Sammi has gone digitally home with people from around the world, whether to be deleted or not, I have no idea.
    In one way or another, then, Sammi and I have gotten used to providing directions and fur-baby time to complete strangers.
    So it was no surprise when a few mornings ago, a car pulled up at the side of the road just ahead of us.  The passenger window rolled down as we neared the vehicle, and I wondered where they were trying to get to.  But this time, the pattern shifted a bit.
    I bent down a bit to look inside.  The driver was alone in the car, a guy in his late thirties or so.  And he didn’t ask for directions.  Instead, he leant a little towards the open window and said apologetically,
    “Sorry, I’m not trying to be weird or anything, but I had a dog exactly like that when I was a kid.”  He gazed at Sammi, and seemed completely harmless.  “I just wanted to stop and look.”  He looked.  “Yah, mine was exactly like that.”
    By now, as I looked in at him, I could see that there were tears in his eyes.  Still, I believed him when he said he wasn’t being weird; he was just remembering the dog of his childhood.  And a minute later, he thanked me and drove away.
    I’ve told a few people about this encounter, and the common response has been that the guy was definitely weird and creepy, or drunk.
    And maybe he was drunk, or hung over, or high.  But not creepy.  And maybe – and this is what I believe – he was just a guy who was at that moment vulnerable to a memory stirred by seeing Sammi.  He may have been a bit of an extreme case, but he was just a guy, another stranger, touched by the mere sight of a dog.
    How is it that these four-legged beings are able to stir up in us memories and instincts of cherishing, of companionship, and of love, so that distances of time and space fall away when we encounter one of them?  I have no idea.  I’m just deeply glad that they do.