It is a dog gone good thing I have a dog. I have one of those dogs who is a real jerk about reminding me to take care of myself. Eat, drink water, get outside, play and go for a walk every day. We could learn a lot from dogs.

My regular walk with my “self- care assistant” Bonzer ..who is sticking his tongue out at you… was different today. Today I remembered Karen and the responsibility I feel to always pay it forward when I can.

Just around the corner from my house at the end of our walk, he came galloping at me. A giant noodle wagging his old man white lab tail. He wasn’t on a leash which I found surprising in this neighborhood. He bounded over to us and promptly puppy pounced on my pooch. This was a very happy doggo. I saw he had a collar and assumed he belonged to the couple walking across the street, so we kept walking. Something pulled words out of my mouth and I asked the couple if that was their dog. They said no. I paused for a few moments and decided I had to go get him. He was on a mission happily hustling down the street and we had to jog to catch up. Oh yeah, I used to run…I need to get back to that. I kept thinking he was walking home, that at any moment someone would pop out of their house or car and say oh there you are…

We catch up and I see his collar and the phone numbers barely legible on it. I call, disconnected. I call the other number. I get no answer. I call again and leave a very awkward message on a voicemail that gave no indication of who I was calling. I text. I call again, no answer. I call the one that was disconnected and this time it just rings. Meanwhile the couple walks by staring at me, like I was crazy. Maybe they were cat people.

He’s a wiggle boy so I slip my leash under his collar and start walking him home. Two dogs, one leash, not the best plan. Neither of them seem to mind all that much. I call again as I am heading home. Nothing. We get in the house and I realize Petie is basically a bull in a china shop with ferocious tail wagging. I drop off Bonzer, grab a jacket because I’m freezing now and head out the door with just Petie hoping to hear or see someone calling for him.

Fresh in my memory though long ago, in a place far away, I remember our two dogs that were absolute escape artists. I remember very clearly the time they jumped out of our enclosed truck camper at a gas station when we were headed out to go camping. They just split. They sprinted right for the river and disappeared. This was not the first time they had pulled a stunt like this, but normally we’d find them just down the street at the McDonald’s parking lot rolling in the washed off grease from the floor mats. Lovely. Baths would be with dish soap…again. But not this time. Between moments of you have got to be kidding me and sheer frustration, I was really, really sad. We drove around for hours, we did not find them. A week later I got a phone call that someone had found our dogs and they had managed to travel from that gas station about 20 miles toward home. I was beyond grateful to have my fur babies back. I remember.

I started walking with Petie, wondering if I was in fact about to have another dog for a while. Just a noodle lab, he got along with Bonzer, so I was ready for that possibility. Standing on the corner just across the street from my house I call…again. This time there was an answer.

On the other end of the line was the “old folks home” just a house away from where I was standing. I was super confused. I thought I had a dyslexic moment and checked his collar again to make sure I got the number right. I shakily say I have Petie with me…. Turns out, Petie is their dog. Petie, the big beautiful doggo lives with the old timers. I have no doubt he brings much needed joy especially when people can’t even visit. I was completely relieved. I paid it forward, I brought Petie home. I was able to bring joy back, and realized it was exactly what my heart needed.

The world may in fact be a dumpster fire of disbelief and despair lately, but I was reminded in the best of ways to pay it forward, to deliver joy when you can, be a helper and bonus…I got to meet Petie. Now when I walk or drive by, I picture Petie nuzzling and tail wagging and getting all of the secret snacks and pets from the grandmas and grandpas. I smile and that’s a dog gone good thing.

Learning to live unafraid.

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