Waiting in line at a drug store, I saw a mother hit her four year-old so hard I thought his head would come off. Before I could react, a man did, letting her have it with both barrels. The kid cried for a quick second, stopping as if he instinctively knew, it would make his mom look that much worse.
She then started to cry herself causing the man, to his credit, to have compassion rather than contempt. She was young and obviously overwhelmed, no excuse, but that’s what happens when children have children.
Later on, when walking from east to west, I hear a screechy, offensive voice in the distance. It was a middle-aged woman dressed very much like me…jeans, sneakers, a Barbour jacket…attempting to train her chocolate Labrador puppy. The harshness in her voice stopped me in my tracks.
Tact, I muttered to myself when I made up my mind to approach her. She clearly didn’t know how to talk to an animal.
Now I’m no dog whisperer, but I do know any command needs to be laced in love.
“Excuse me,” I said cautiously, “that’s a real cute puppy you have there.”
She gave me a big, proud smile, so I knew she had no clue how mean she sounded. Either someone told her to train her dog that way, or she got it from a book…but she needed some four-legged tweaking in a hurry.
I decided to just cut to the chase.
“Please don’t get mad at me…but I need to tell you something.” She came closer. “You sound as if you hate the dog, when I know you don’t.” I watched her smile disappear like the sun behind a cloud.
“What do you mean?” she said, shocked.
“I know you’re trying to train him…her?”
“Him, his name’s Milo.”
“But I think maybe you need to be more gentle with Milo, when you do.”
“But then he won’t listen.”
“Yeah he will. I think it’s more hitting the last letter of the word….sit-ttt…stay-yyy…and the tone is important so he knows, even though it’s a command, you love him as you’re commanding.” (who was I channeling, Timmy and Lassie?)
“But I was doing that,” she said, confused.
“Yeah, but you sound like you’re mad at him. Trust me, it made me stop.”
“I’m not mad at him, I love him. I waited forever to adopt a puppy…he came from a mill that was shut down in Tennessee.” Oh my God…she rescued him….now I felt like a schmuck, but smartly kept it to myself.
“I think it’s great you didn’t buy him from a breeder. It’s admirable. But love is the answer.”
Isn’t that true across the board?’
I left her taking to Milo like he was a guy she had the hots for, so my intrusion wasn’t in vain. Did Milo just wink at me, or was it the Bloody Mary I had earlier?
The next day, I encountered a bunch of kids at a hot dog stand. I was sitting on a bench watching them all buy food except for one kid. I pointed this out to a woman sitting next to me who said, “Maybe he’s not hungry.” But what kid, especially when he’s with his friends, isn’t hungry?
I asked one of them were they on some kind of team, and he said, they were. They just didn’t have uniforms yet. I inched my way over to the kid not eating and said, “Are you the only smart one not having a hot dog?” He shrugged without answering. Okay, he didn’t get my humor…he was all of twelve, so I tried another approach.
“If I get one, will you have half?” This piqued his interest.
“Why?” he said, scratching under his arm.
“I only want a little bit…I don’t eat meat all that often but that delicious smell is getting to me.” (such a lie)
“Alright,” he said, which actually surprised me. These were inner city kids and my guess is, he didn’t have the money to get a hot dog. My heart, already stitched in a thousand places, split a seam. So I got one, took a tiny bit, and gave the rest to him.
“Are you sure that’s all you want?” he said, sweetly concerned.
“Yeah, thanks for doing me the favor,” hoping he didn’t see me roll it in a napkin.
but anything for a kid.