A connection that has nothing to do with dogs
Nobody knew what was happening back home. Then the dog demanded a walk.
I spent two weeks caring for loved ones back home in Michigan, my dog Rusty in tow.
While my youngest recovered from surgery, she slept on the couch – me beside her, the dog beside us.
While my mother-in-law fought her last cancer battle, she lay on a hospice bed – me beside her, the dog beside us.
The dog was a trooper – missing his twice-daily walks, playing the beta to the furry house alphas, eating out of strange bowls, being told to lay down.
He was patient. And underfoot.
After my mother-in-law passed away and the paperwork was underway, my husband and I drove back to Illinois, dog in tow, minds blown.
I haven’t made many connections yet in this home away from home. I know a few neighbors in a wave-and-smile way, but I am mostly low-profile, walking the dog early in the morning and late at night so he can be off the leash and pee on plants with impunity. Nobody here knows what has been going on there.
We arrived in the neighborhood mid-afternoon, no clue where to start. Rusty dashed into the house, retrieved one of the stuffed “squirrels” he likes to take on walks, and pushed it into my legs.
A walk was as good a start as any.
The neighbors were out in force with their dogs, reminding me why we don’t walk during the day. In the first half of the walk, Rusty pulled at the leash, pranced before an agitated dog twice his size, dropped his squirrel, and did his business in front of an audience. Fortunately, the back loop was quieter. Rusty’s tail settled into a happy rhythm and I marveled at his quick return to normal.
The tail picked up speed, Joe was out.
The dog is the reason I know Joe. Shortly after Rusty’s walking routine was established, Joe came out of his house to greet us. He used to have dogs and found Rusty and his stuffed walking companion a joy. Ever since, if Joe is home, he will pop out to pet the dog.
One morning I asked if Joe knew a good kennel. I didn’t tell him the frequent six-hour drives to Michigan were getting rough with a 100-pound dog in tow. Joe said he’d get back to me and offered help if I needed someone on short notice. That was when I realized we didn’t know each others’ names. He told me his name and had me repeat mine twice before confessing he would likely forget it.
Joe is my kind of guy.
This time, before turning his attention to Rusty, Joe handed me a sticky note – a short list of good kennels.
I held the note, this favor granted, my eyes growing slick as Joe petted the dog, wondering aloud why Rusty’s routine had been broken.
That’s when I told Joe something that had nothing to do with dogs.
I told him my mother-in-law had just died of cancer in front of me.
That’s when Joe told me something that had nothing to do with dogs.
He is a nurse. His mother died of cancer. And he knew what that looks like.
Then he opened his arms and gave me a hug.
I don’t know Joe’s full name, but I felt a rush of connection.
Someone here knows what happened there.
One day at a time strangers without last names become friends last names are never needed to be the best friend just a kind heart.
What a heart sad story. I do not have words other than I too was a hospice nurse and know what this looks like. Thank you Joe for hugging my blog friend and a special hug from me for you, your family and your bravery.