I saw the sweetest thing in the park today. At the Hans Christian Anderson stature where they normally have storytelling, there was a group of teens teaching little ones how to safely approach and pet a dog.
Kids will either trounce an animal thinking it’s stuffed, or hide behind their mom or dad quite often in tears.
This group was no more than 4, the youngest 2, all seated on tiny pastel tuffets while six well behaved pups sat in a row, facing them.
There was a golden retriever, a black lab, a collie, beagle, French bulldog and a chihuahua all wearing their ‘On Duty’ vests. They’re what you call wellness dogs, trained to go to hospitals and old-age homes, to uplift and soothe the troubled. Not every puppy makes the cut. You have to have a certain amount of self-control and tolerance to be around the sick and elderly just in case one pulls your tail by mistake.
I sat on a bench watching.
A pretty girl with blonde braids said, “Do we all know how to smile?” Some said yes, a few nodded, and one little guy went to sleep.
“That’s the first thing you do when you a meet a four-legged friend. Let’s try it. I’ll count to three and we’ll all smile…okay?”
Don’t you know they all grinned like miniature imps right on cue. Why wasn’t someone video taping this since it gave cute all new meaning.
Becka then called over Loretta, the golden retriever, who looked like a Breck girl the way her fur picked up the sun. She sat like such a lady as Becka stroked her saying over and over again…gentle, gentle before going into her safety speech…and I’ll paraphrase.
When you first meet a dog, after you smile at him, even if it’s one you know, you don’t pet it right away. Instead, you open your palm like this (demonstrates), so the dog can sniff, seeing you’re a friend. It becomes his decision, and unless he’s Charlie Manson with paws, knows right away you mean it no harm (yes, I tossed in the Manson line).
Each one got to try it out. One particular kid was a bit nervous and couldn’t quite bring himself to open his hand for Toby the beagle who finally just said, fuck it, breaking the ice by licking his cheek. The look on his face was priceless, breaking into an even bigger grin once the shock wore off.
Another tiny creature named Annabel became besotted with Ivy, the French bulldog. I wish you could have heard her giggles every time Ivy sniffed then licked her hand. I smiled so much my jaws hurt.
Then, to my delight because I know him, Harvey, the Saint Bernard showed up.
“Sorry we’re late,” said Bill, his owner, “we were at the groomer’s.” Evidently this was Harvey’s first day on the job so he wanted to look his best. The size of Montana, when he got in line knocked over Enrico the chihuahua who I must say, took it like a gentleman.
Annabel, who was so brave a few minutes before, backed up like a Chevy when she saw Harvey. The instructor explained how it’s okay that dogs come in all sizes. One needn’t be afraid. On cue Harvey woofed, his six pals echoing, turning into back-up singers.
I never saw anything quite as dear, not to mention smart. So many kids grow up fearful of dogs. I see it often. They’re man’s best friend after all, and age shouldn’t be a factor.
What was that Harvey, size shouldn’t be either? I’m sure every basketball player in the NBA would agree.