Learning about unconditional love from a most unexpected passerby
It was a warmish spring day, hinting of summer just round the bend. The sun lit the afternoon sky gently. The scent of mimosa drifted through the neighborhood park.
The breezes were welcoming both Kris and me. I had brought my precious, wobbly doggie companion to one of our favorite nearby places to stroll: a park with a large duck and goose pond. This was our first such outing in more than two months, and I was nervous about it. Since her partial stroke, “Kris’l” was considerably weaker than before. Her weak hind end, hip dysplasia and arthritic right back leg were slowing her down considerably. She would be defenseless under surprise attack. The thought of some other dog running unattended, loosed on us , even in play, was threatening.
More threatening though, was the thought of losing our shared joy of outings together. So I’d brought my best friend, aging bones and all to the park that seemed safest to try out.
We moseyed around the water, Kristol stumbling about, but happy to be sniffing trees for squirrels and meandering amidst the “duckies” and “goosets.” I had an incurable habit of speaking baby-talk to her. Paws became “footsets” or even “pootsets.” An occasional sparrow brought “widdo birdie, Honey,” purrs of “Ristol-la-la-la” following as we went.
Kristol was an innocent, fearing nothing: I was cautious, hugely protective, watching for trouble everywhere. Thus we made our tentative way along the perimeter of the park.
`The weather was lovely, I had to confess. I sighed with relief as a swift breeze came up unannounced, momentarily carrying me and my attention away from the park, the birds, and my ward.
An unearthly sound called me back from momentary reverie. There, about twenty yards from Kristol was a boy, perhaps about ten or eleven years old. He had espied my big, furry “doggus,” and his eyes were newly glued on her. Another excited yell came from him as he began to make his way towards Kris, who heard nothing, her stroke having made her nearly deaf.
Rattled momentarily, I reconsidered: maybe he was OK, wouldn’t really be a problem. I didn’t want to be overly protective, or should I say, any more overprotective than I already was being. But how to know for sure?
My instincts were on alert. Running away wouldn’t be an option. Nor could I pick her up and carry her away from the kid back to my car if things got out of hand. I began to freeze into place, as the boy came closer. Something was weird about him. He was walking funny, not normal, kind of swaggering a little. I could see his eyes, locked in on Kristol, arms outreached towards his target.
I held my breath, as he reached us, long thin arms eager to make contact with my stiff old buddy. Dammit. The kid was drooling, too.
My instinct to breathe won over the next instant. I took in a deep breath and consciously stationed myself, hovering over Kristol, preparing to do whatever was needed to protect her from this strange, afflicted child as he positioned himself with glee over Kristol, slowly lowering delicate arms down towards her bowed spine. The boy had black hair and sensitive, long fingers. I held my breath again, fascinated in spite of myself.
I was totally unprepared for what happened next. With utmost care and uncanny precision, the boy laid hands on my animal, drooling as he began to lower his mouth towards her back, her weakness. Ohmygod: was he going to bite her?? Dammit. He was drooling all over her beautiful fur. Kris was tolerating the touch, with her own kind of allowingness she often extended to the children who took delight in her. Trusting. Totally trusting.
I couldn’t move. As if hypnotized, I watched as the boy planted the sweetest kiss I ever saw onto the spine of my creature. Two more times, lowering his mouth, kissing her along her spine!
I myself was in the habit of kissing her along her spine, an act of utter devotion and pure, unadulterated adoration. And now, here was a child, an abnormal, strange, unspeaking, slobbering child teaching me about unconditional love, unconditioned communion, unquestioning connection, and innate power to heal. I was hugely humbled.
Uninvited tears streamed down my face as I witnessed and silently thanked my mentor, this child of god, only in the next instant to wipe them away embarrassedly as a dark-haired Latina woman approached. The child’s mother spoke no English, and offered no words. Together we watched the ritual for another minute or so, until I became aware than Kristol was tiring from standing there.
Attached to the animal, the boy protested as Kristol struggled to walk away. I gestured to the woman, and understanding, she gathered the boy up in her arms, and onto her back, piggyback style. The boy was bereft, hollering his frustration. I felt guilty on two counts: once for him, and once for my sweet companion. Their needs no longer seemed to coincide.
As we walked away, back to our car, away from the mother and her olive skinned, deep dark-eyed son, my tears returned. A suspended moment in time, a teaching for my life. A kiss I would never forget.