The other day I had to drive out to Clinton Corners, NY to the Agway to buy a special type of horse grain that's only available at a couple of places near our farm. Jonathan was away so I had a limited amount of time to get the grain and drive home to do more horsey day care activities. I had brought the dogs with me, because they LOVE going on rides in the car. Doesn't matter if it's hours in the car, or just a quick run to get coffee. They want to be with us all the time. Australian Shepherds are loyal to a fault and by and large, great dogs.
I was finishing paying for the bag of grain when a paunchy, disheveled balding man sauntered in and said, "Hello!!" in a booming sing song voice. The cashier looked up and gave him a nod and a wan smile. He proceeded to ask her where the cat food was located and he bounced off through the store to find a big bag of Meow Mix.
"Are those your lovely dogs in the black car out there?" he asked me in a lilting accent, which I took to be British as he stood next to me at the check out.
"Yup," I replied. "They're my steady companions."
"What breed are they?"
"Australian Shepherds," I said. "A black tri and a blue merle"
"Ohhhh," he said. "I love Aussies! I have to get my phone and show you a picture of my Aussie, Dozer. He was a beauty!"
He shambled off to his car, and I looked at the cashier, with my eyebrows raised. She told me he's a talker and bid me good luck as I left the store to give the grain guy my ticket for the bag of grain. Great. I was in a hurry and I really needed to get back to the farm. And I had a talker waiting for me. Sweet, I thought, only me.
I went out to my car and waited as the man came over from his car, while excitedly thumbing through photos on his phone.
"Hold on," he said. "I can't find the picture."
I waited patiently and studied him quietly as we stood side by side. Clad in baggy, navy athletic shorts, he was an middle aged man, thick in the middle, with two day razor stubble, and he seemed like the type of a man who had let himself go a bit. He asked if he could pat my dogs, who were straining at the open windows. My one dog, Becks is over the top friendly. He was more than happy to have a stranger reach through the window and give him pats and love. Within seconds, Becks was licking the man's face and giving him all of the love that a dog can give. I sighed, because I know Becks and his immense need for love from all people, but this guy was in heaven. I could tell. Remy, our blue merle, in his gentle way was looking into the man's eyes and reciprocating love while the man scratched his ears. As he patted my dogs, the man proceeded to tell me all about his divorce, the fact that he had to give his dogs away, he'd had recent trip to South Africa to get his head straight (he's South African, not British turns out) and tells me that his wife had just left him for another man. It was a heart wrenching story. Suddenly, my impending need to move on went away and I let his guy pat Becks and Remy to his hearts content. I didn't care that I needed to get home. This man was hurting in ways that I couldn't relate to personally, but it was palpable. The man needed to touch the dogs and they were giving him therapy that no human therapist could provide. This went on for quite a while and eventually, the man found the picture he was looking for on his phone and I saw his Aussie dog, Dozer. He was a beautiful dog. Gorgeous blue merle Aussie and I saw tears in the man's eyes as he showed me the photo.
"I hated to give him up," he said. "Hardest thing I've ever had to do, but I'm not in a place to have dogs now."
"He's lovely," I said. "I'm so sorry that you've had a rough patch, but I think you've done the right thing. I bet he's happy where he is right now. "
What more could I say? I don't know. He gave my dogs parting kisses and told me that visiting with them was the best thing that's happened to him in a long time. We parted company and I got into my car and drove away, wondering if I was meant to show up at this particular feed store just to see this lovely man, who was in a bad way and needed to love some Aussies to help him through a tough day and share his story with a perfect stranger. Funny enough, we never exchanged names. It was an anonymous meeting of two people at a feed store in Clinton Corners, NY. Yet, it felt like it was meant to be.