I witnessed something so strange and powerful the other day on an evening walk with my dog before going to bed. The experience has stuck in my head for a few days. This happens sometimes – I’ll encounter something that feels bigger than me, and unless I write it down it nags at the back of my head. Like it’s not supposed to stay within me but is meant to be shared. (So thank you, whoever is reading this.)
It was September 11th, and I had been out all day working at an event in honor of September 11th, at the offices of Cantor Fitzgerald – a company which lost 2/3 of its employees in 9/11. I got home after a long day out, picked up my dog and met some friends for dinner. On our way home, we passed by a church where I saw a couple of people were sitting on the stairs with sleeping bags and clothes and crates and crap. As my dog and I approached, a seated man started cooing over Betsy.
My immediate reaction was to ignore it and keep walking, but then looked at the man and for some reason changed my mind. I thought to myself “He’s not dangerous; I don’t know anything about this person or why he’s on the street. If petting my dog makes him happy, why not let him?”
Betsy went up to him as if she knew him, and he greeted her warmly, exclaiming: “I haven’t seen you in a week! How have you been!?” I can’t explain why but I got the chills. We were on a block we don’t normally walk down; there was no way this man had actually seen my dog a week earlier; she wasn’t even staying with me in the city that much recently. And he definitely hadn’t seen her more than once or I would have remembered the interaction. He was looking directly into her face, as if he was recognizing something deeper inside her. I felt like he wasn’t actually speaking to Betsy, my dog – but to her spirit.
As we started to walk away he said to me “They’re the best, aren’t they?” To which I replied, “Yup!”
The fact that he first spoke directly to my dog as though they knew each other — and then to me as though they’ve never met before — seemed to confirm what I had already concluded. He identified with some aspect of my loving, affectionate, judgment-free animal, who nuzzled up to him and didn’t make him feel dirty or different. He seemed to be addressing the presence of love and kindness that he recognized within her; it saddened me to think he hadn’t seen that in a week.
A poetic way to end the day on September 11th.