Two Dogs, Two Strangers & a Life Lesson

Soon after I first adopted Roxy — a border collie, wirehair terrier and God knows what else mix — we started walking in a nearby park.

Our first friends were an Asian woman (oddly, dog owners tend to learn each other’s dog names way before they learn the human names) and her Vizla, Cosmo.

Cosmo was 8 or 9 years old, gorgeous and mostly politely tolerant of the puppy energy then 5-month-old Roxy brought into his previously serene morning walk. His owner loved Roxy and always asked how she was coming along with the training, being quite nice about Roxy’s initial jumping habits, and commenting how “she’s doing much better” when Roxy greeted her without jumping later on.

We didn’t know each other besides our encounters in the park, but I looked forward to seeing her and Cosmo (who was also my favorite dog in the park) and I know Roxy looked forward to our meetings too.

Flash forward to a little more than a year later. Roxy and I were still walking the park every day, but went nearly a month without seeing Cosmo and his owner.

Where were they?

Another week or two passed and then we saw her. Cosmo’s owner was walking toward us…alone.

I knew immediately. It seemed like Roxy at first wondered where Cosmo was, circling around, looking at her and at me and around the park. Then once we were talking to the woman, Roxy picked up on her energy and paid attention to her instead of looking around for her first dog friend.

Cosmo was gone. It happened quickly. He wasn’t acting like himself one day, not eating and when he went to the vet, the family got the bad news. Cosmo had cancer that had already spread and in just under two weeks, he was gone.

I hugged Cosmo’s human mom, who cried in my arms and said she couldn’t bear to walk the park without Cosmo by her side. I was so glad though that she decided to walk that day. We talked for a while and then went our separate ways and didn’t see each other for another 7 months.

Today, as Roxy and I were approaching the wooded path, Roxy started her “Army crawl.” She gets low to the ground and inches forward ready to pounce on her playmate. She did it every time we saw Cosmo coming our way. I had no idea why she was doing it today.

I had seen a woman walking toward us, but she had no dog with her and was so far away I didn’t recognize her. Roxy knew. Immediately.

As we got closer, I realized it was Cosmo’s mom. Roxy bounded toward her and snuggled her legs so excited to see her long lost friend. She sat and let the woman pet and greet her with hugs and rubs, then sat and looked up at me while I rubbed her side as if to say “Look, look who I found. It’s our old friend.”

Cosmo’s mom exclaimed how well the non-jumping, self-calming Roxy was doing, “She’s such a good girl,” of course, meaning training had actually finally kicked in. I knew she was thinking of Cosmo in that moment because I was too, but she was smiling and as happy to see us as we were to see her.

To say this morning’s greeting warmed my heart is so cliche, but that’s kind of what dogs are. They’re common, they’re predictable and we love them for it.

Would I, as a human, have greeted that virtual stranger with so much affection if I only knew her from passing by and didn’t have my own dog? Probably not. Our dogs gave us an instant common bond, and though I did get the woman’s name after Cosmo died, it was so long since I saw her again, I forgot. But I was so happy to see her and talk to her this morning. I was even more happy that my dog greeted her with such affection and enthusiasm and gave us both something to smile about today.

My life is definitely richer because I have a dog that reminds me to act with love first. I’m not as good as her at it, but I’m doing much better.

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