Hope, Joy & Love

On Friday morning, I found hope in the park. Literally. Hope is a 5'-something African-American veteran daughter of a Vietnam veteran. She, like her father, used to train dogs for the military. She had seen me struggling day after day trying to learn to walk my dog, but until Friday, I had never actually taken the time to talk with her. I was explaining to her and some of the other dog owners on the hill about how I was trying to use a ball filled with kibble to try to entice my dog to move, and she said, "Give me two minutes, and I can teach your dog to walk." Desperate and curious, I said, "Okay."

First, she demonstrated how to communicate with her dog: when the dog does anything other than pay attention to you, e.g. run too far forward, go after another dog, drag behind when you are wanting to walk, you move in such a way that the leash tightens sharply, say "No!", and then carry on in the direction that you want to go. I laughed: "I've tried that, but she just sits down. I've even ended up dragging her by her neck, she's so stubborn." Hope was unfazed. "Let me show you," she replied. So I handed her the leash, which she immediately explained was too long.

"Oh, but I got it from my puppy class." Hope laughed again. "That woman who is teaching your puppy class used to be my student; I taught her about the long leash. But you don't use it yet, that's for more advanced training. Right now, you need a short leash." She then proceeded to give Joy her first real lesson. Hope tightened the leash and started to move. Joy flopped down on her side and let Hope drag her over the grass for a good twenty feet, her body undulating with the hummocks in the grass but giving no sign that she would ever get up. And then she did. Hope worked with her for maybe a minute or two, moving in such a way that Joy had to start paying attention otherwise her leash would jerk. By the end of the lesson, Joy was looking constantly at Hope, walking in precise "Heel" position and looking more happy and alert than I had ever seen her before.

I was in awe.

"I teach a class here in the park on Sundays at 12:30pm. It's a pick-up class, just come along," Hope told me. "I'll be there," I said, gasping with relief. "It's like magic, I had truly almost given up hope. Thank you!" And then Joy and I walked into campus, she by my side, keeping up with me, stride for stride. That afternoon, I went to the pet shop by the park and bought a new leash with flowers on it. I took Joy to the park and was waiting with her there on the hill when my love came back to me.

I have been holding him in my arms ever since, and I will not let him go.


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