Today’s lesson on compassion and spotlight on my own internal ugly came to me courtesy a Pekingese-chihuahua wearing a cotton candy pink jacket.
(Not the actual dog. For visual reference only)
I’m sitting in the dealership waiting room while my car is being serviced, when in comes an older woman with a bad dye job, a smoker’s cough, and a tiny dog on a long leash.
I’m writing on my laptop, attempting to block out the Fox News blaring, and trying to pretend they hadn’t come in . I think that it’s not so much that I’m not a dog person, as that I’m not a dog person person. Dogs are dogs, and I take them for who they are. Their owners present a greater challenge for me.
The woman says, ” I’m gonna get her a boyfriend when she grows up,” to no one in particular.
The very pregnant woman a few seats to the right of me makes some sort of sound akin to an assent combined with a slight obligatory chuckle.
The dog is on an expandable leash, and begins roaming the waiting room. She makes her way to the pregnant woman, who bends down to give her a quick pet.
My animal telepathy signals are strong, and she goes back to her owner without coming my way.
The woman makes foo-foo conversation with the dog, and then says, “When is your baby due?”
I must be feeling self-conscious, because my hackles rise in indignation before I remember the woman next to me with the large, round belly. She’s not speaking to me, thank goodness.
“The beginning of March,” the pregnant woman responds.
“Is it a boy or a girl?”
“it’s a boy. Our first.”
“Oh , a boy. Boys are fun.”
“Do you have boys?”
“No. But I have this little girl to dress up,” she nods towards the dog.
I choke a bit on my own phlegm.
The dog starts heading my way and I do a quick mental debate on what my response will be. At first I continue typing, but then a tiny face peeks around my laptop. I look at her and she yips at me, eliciting a pleased coo from her owner. She puts her paws on my leg.
It’s an adorable little face, and I cannot resist giving her a gentle pat.
“She has to get to know everyone,” says the person on the other end of what, at the moment, is a 20 foot leash.
The dog (For this purpose I’m wishing I had asked her name) left me to greet the elderly man who was coming in.
“She has to check everyone out!” shrills Pinkie’s (not her real name) owner giddily.
The man looks around and heads back out into the lobby.
A conversation between Pinkie’s owner and the pregnant woman begins, and I concentrate on the book I’m writing. (Juvenile fiction- work in progress)
Pinkie comes around near me again and out of the corner of my eye, I see she has paused. I know that look. Sure enough, a tiny stream of urine starts making its way toward me.
“Oh!” I gasp. “Um!” And I look at Pinkie’s owner. She looks at me and I look down at the puddle on the floor.
“Oh my!” She jumps up and picks up the dog and runs around in a couple circles before heading out into the lobby. She comes back with a hand towel and drops it at my feet.
I’m sure my face belies my internal dialogue. I’m making every attempt to appear passive and disinterested, however I’m feeling a combination of annoyance, disgust and misguided responsibility for the mess on the carpet in front of me.
She taps her foot on top of the cloth and then leans down to pick it up. She rushes out in the hall and I hear a man tell her, “No, that’s okay. Let’s just throw it away.”
She comes back in, appearing flustered with Pinkie in her arms. Pinkie has seemed somewhat flustered since I first laid eyes on her, as most tiny dogs are prone to be a little jittery.
But just as irritation is settling in my soul and converting to a general disdain for this woman and her dog, another somewhat older woman comes in to the waiting room and sits on the couch next to them.
“She’s so adorable!” The new woman crows.
Pinkie’s owner beams. “Thank you!”
I glance up at her face and in an instant I recognize the human being to whom I was up until this point completely oblivious . In her face I see pride, and significance. I glimpse gratitude at being SEEN. I sense someone who has gained purpose through this tiny critter in a pink coat.
“It’s nice to have the company I’ll bet,” says the new woman.
“Yes,” smiles Pinkie’s mom. ” Especially being alone.”
And there it is. The knife in my heart. The crack in her voice as she says it leaves me feeling both gutted and grateful. Gutted in the knowledge that my judgmental heart had resented this clear source of joy for this woman, of whose story and life I have no knowledge beyond this one moment.
And grateful for Pinkie. Grateful that these two have found each other. They need each other. Pinkie provides companionship and unconditional love. Pinkie’s mom takes care of her, and has plans to get her a boyfriend. Maybe a couple babies.
One of my greatest personal challenges is looking beyond my own self to empathize with others and imagine a walk in their shoes. I love situations like these because they are uncomfortable and they challenge me to stop being so self-focused and connect with the people around me, even for a moment. I truly believe one of the greatest cures for my innate selfishness and hard-heartedness is taking the time to look a stranger in the eye and see past the external to the person inside.
So thanks, Pinkie. Thanks for being a tiny, unexpected, yippy, piddling life lesson bundled in a tiny pink jacket.