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You Never Know

Early this week I pulled up in front of my house after work and there was the cutest little Westie running around the neighbor’s bushes. You know those sprawling cyprus shrubs? I like to call them spider bushes. Anyway, this adorable little gal ran circles around the shrubs and then she’d shimmy underneath, her charming white rear end shaking back and forth along with her tail. I was immediately enamored. I’d never seen her before and assumed she’d escaped her house and ended up in our neighborhood. I knew the family of rabbits in residence under those spider bushes had to be the draw.

My husband was sitting on our porch and as I climbed the steps, I asked if he’d seen the little beast who was terrorizing the rabbits across the street? He shook his head and stood up to catch a glimpse of her, but she’d disappeared under the shrubs and he lost interest. I went inside to put my stuff down and grab a refreshing drink of water before joining my husband on the porch. Not too long after I’d sat down a car crawled past with the driver calling, “Gabby!”

My husband asked, “Little white dog?”

The man nodded.

I stood and pointed. “I saw her running around the bushes.”

“When?” he asked.

“Not five minutes ago.”

He pulled into the driveway and got out, leash in hand, ready to collect his dog. I walked across the street to tell him what Gabby had been doing. But Gabby was nowhere in sight.

My husband followed me across the street. We introduced ourselves and I was happy to discover I would remember this man’s name because I have a main character in one of my books with the same name. The three of us walked the perimeter of the shrubbery hoping to find Gabby. My husband was the first to see her, so Dex and I joined him at his location. At first we didn’t see her and I wondered if my husband had been mistaken. I think Dex suspected the same thing because he continued to circle the shrubs calling out for the dog. Then Gabby wiggled her way into view again before scurrying off. I squealed in excitement and my husband tugged and pulled at the bushes to create an exit for the dog.

She wasn’t having it though. I’m pretty sure the rabbits all got away (they were everywhere) however, I think Gabby expected to find more. She wasn’t even pretending to hear Dex call for her.

I said to my husband, “Why don’t we go get Chloe?” We have two dogs. While our English Cream Retriever is well-behaved and far too mature to crawl under spider bushes, our Goldendoodle is always up for an adventure. Sure enough, we pointed to the opening we’d seen the little Westie disappear into and Chloe soldier crawled right in. She was in and out of those bushes in a flash, discovering all the entrances and exits. She even bounded over the top of them. But, alas, no Gabby.

While my husband manned the new exit he’d created, I stood at the entrance with Dex. We finally had a moment to speak, so I asked if he lived close, wondering how far the little dog had run before discovering her new playground. He responded, “My wife and I live in the new house.”

Well, that was embarrassing. The property we were standing on is about three acres of land. After the patriarch of the family passed, one of the kid’s family moved in. Then they built a second house on the property for another kid’s family, who I was apparently staring at. I hadn’t realized anyone had moved in yet. Dex explained how he was related to the patriarch and we talked about how much he was missed. It was nice to find a commonality with my new neighbor. Especially after feeling like such a schmuck for not noticing their arrival.

We continued to try to flush Gabby out from under the bushes to no avail. She was having the time of her life. Dex finally dragged a hose over and sprayed into the bushes. I thought the entire exercise was completely futile when Gabby didn’t come out immediately. I was walking around the bushes to join my husband on his side when I spotted something. I took a couple steps backward, and there was Gabby, just inside the shrubbery. I squatted down, held out my hand and used my most soothing voice. “Come here girl. Come here, Gabby.”

Head hanging in defeat, she came right to me. She was filthy, which I found hysterical. I plucked her off the ground and carried her over to Dex. We’d been out there for a good half hour at that point. I really hadn’t expected us to be successful, so I was feeling pretty good about it all. Dex was very appreciative.

“Thank you,” he said. “Now I can get to the hospital. That’s where I was headed. To visit my wife. I opened the door and this little girl ran right out. I couldn’t just leave her. She doesn’t know…we haven’t been here long.”

And just like that I was overwhelmed by…I don’t even know. I’d stood next to this man for a half an hour and he’d been strong and confident and focused. But as soon as he mentioned his wife, it was like he was a scared little boy. Distracted from his fear or by his fear, I’m not even sure, but suddenly he wasn’t finishing his sentences and I could tell, he was anxious to get to the hospital. Heck, I wanted to drive him! It was an unexpected and stunning display of love that he probably had no clue he was showing.

I saw Dex again a couple of mornings ago. I was in my garden when he walked came out of the driveway walking two Westies. Gabby and her son. I asked about his wife, we talked about my garden, about walking dogs, about nothing. Then he set off on his walk. It was lovely. And as I watched him leave I smiled to myself. You never know when someone is going through something. I am so glad my husband and I invested that time in helping reunite Dex with Gabby. I imagine that it probably meant something to Dex to have a couple of strangers help with a stressful situation when he was already stressed about his wife. But I will forever be impacted by that one moment when Dex’s guard dropped. I feel like the beauty and frailty of the human condition that he displayed in that one moment will resonate within me for my lifetime. It’s a lesson we can’t learn enough through our lifetimes.

Be kind. You never know what people are going through, but your kindness may help them weather it.

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