I awoke, and wondered if there was reason enough to get up.
How did it come to this? When I was young, I never thought I would be old. Not because I was deluded by the myth of youth’s invincibility- no, it was because I had been deathly ill as a child, and believed I would be gone before the flame of youth had flickered out. I was wrong.
I was becoming a recluse. I had recently retired and did not fully realize how much of my human connection involved the people with whom I worked. Now there was distance. Friendships may not necessarily die, but they can quickly fade without proximity. I had hoped new friends would fill the void, somehow not recognizing my basic introversion. I began to feel exiled by circumstances and the blur of time as the days and months vanished from the calendar.
Every morning it seemed to take a little longer to get out of bed. I would make lists of things to do; plans to break out of the doldrums. But lethargy and chronic pain were constant obstacles. Then, the afternoon drowsiness set in.
Sometimes, in the middle of reading a book or watching t.v., I would nod off, only to be awakened by the whip snap of my neck. At times the book would fall out of my hands as wakefulness slid away.
I began taking naps on the couch. Sometimes, I sensed the cushions were pulling me downward. The sensation was like an unwanted seduction. The naps became more frequent, and of greater duration.
Then, one afternoon I awoke from one of the naps. I was disassociated. For a horrible moment I did not know where I was or who I was. Was this one manifestation of death? Not sudden or violent, but slow and insidious- a seductive disintegration, the will and identity smothered by a relentless veil of sleep?
Not yet. I fought and clarity returned. I rallied my will and shook off the malaise, and went out for a walk. Just steps from my door, I saw the notice taped to a lamp post:
Service Dog With
A picture of Teddy was on the notice. He looked like a poodle, with sweet gentle eyes.
I called the number on the notice. A man answered and explained that the cleaning woman had probably left a door open and Teddy bolted out. He and his wife, who was in the hospital at the time, were frantic and despairing. Teddy was a house dog with special dietary needs due to an ailing liver. His chances of surviving out in the street were poor. Suddenly, I had a purpose.
I began to search. The black poodle with gentle eyes, and the disposition to qualify as a service dog. Could he have gotten far?
Each day I embarked on my search, walking the streets and parks near Teddy’s home. I checked local animal hospitals and shelters. Poor little Teddy. What if he were hurt? I looked in dark nooks and obscure corners; behind bushes and trees.
Days went by, then months. The notices were no longer posted and I had lost the phone number. Poor little Teddy. I could only hope that he was picked up by a caring person- but how would that person know about Teddy’s special needs and diet?
I began to fall back into a funk. I had resigned myself that Teddy was forever lost. But he lingered in my thoughts. Such a harsh world we live in, random and terrible.
Over a year went by, and one day on impulse I decided to take a walk. There were several directions I could go, and randomly turned right toward the sidewalk. As I rounded the corner a tall, attractive woman nearly collided with me. She had two dogs in tow, both appearing to be poodles. There was a shock of recognition. The smaller of the two dogs looked familiar. We began to chat and the woman, whose name is Katherine, mentioned that the dog I found familiar was a service dog. I was stunned. “Is this Teddy?” I asked. “Yes,” she replied. We began to chat. Somehow, Teddy wound up 111 miles away in Cathedral City, where a poor family had taken care of him. He became quite ill and had lost a great deal of weight. Ha was taken to an animal hospital in Palm Springs and through his embedded chip was traced back to Katherine and her husband. As we continued talking, Katherine told me Teddy provides comfort to sick children in hospitals and at places where people are shocked and grieving due to tragedies such as fires. As I related to Katherine how touched I had been by Teddy’s disappearance and my daily search for him, she handed him to me to hold. He clung, hugging me as would a small child.
I was and remain flabbergasted by the serendipity of our meeting. Had I embarked on my walk a few seconds sooner or later, or gone in a different direction, we may never have connected. I would have been haunted by the image of the sweet gentle dog on the poster and would always wonder about his fate. I am not a religious person, but sometimes random events are so uncanny that they defy randomness. Did I really just chance upon them on a random walk?
And so it was with Teddy. He found his way home, back to where he belonged, comforting suffering people, and reunited with the people who love him.