Wednesday, December 9, 2009

My Friend Jerry

I've been rather demanding for the last couple of weeks. When I leave the office I've really wanted to walk down Massachusetts Avenue toward the parking garage. Jason would much rather walk down Mt. Auburn because it's less busy and distracting. I however have other plans. I like the distraction and I've been busy making new friends. So what if it takes an extra half hour to get home?

Two weeks ago I demonstrated I have a mind of my own even when I'm on a leash. There was someone sitting on the sidewalk against a building. I thought the guy looked interesting so I started wagging my tail. I couldn't control myself for long and ended up in a play bow and then a full body wiggle. I dragged Jason by his leash over to the man.

I first met Jerry two Tuesdays ago. Over the last two weeks I've learned a lot about the man. His name was Jerry (I'm not using his real name: while he didn't ask me not to, I want to protect his privacy). He's a homeless Veteran from the first Gulf War. He owned a home and was married. Things got difficult, he lost his job, his house, and then his wife.

It's was around nine and the sidewalk on Mass. Ave. was pretty quiet. It was the in between time: early evening rush was gone and the after dinner crowd had not yet appeared. Jerry was sitting down on the ground with a cardboard sign that said homeless Gulf War Vet. He was sitting with a female friend.

Like I started saying before (I'm a puppy, I get distracted a lot!), I saw them and started wagging my tail. When I caught their eye I went down into a play bow. Both of the people got all animated: I knew what that means. Play time! I went into a full body wiggle and dragged Jason over there by his leash.

I got right up onto their laps and lavished them with love. Lots of kisses, tail wagging, and general merriment. My new friends talked about how many people walk by them trying to pretend like they don't notice them or turn their lips up in a sneer. With big smiles on their faces they both hugged me and showered me with a whole lot of love.

"Five minutes with you," they said, "is the best Christmas present we could ever get."

Last night I was playing with Jerry and some students from Harvard came up with backpacks. I was instantly excited because I smelled food. Apparently there are a few groups of Harvard students who walk around Cambridge every night offering sandwiches, warm socks and hats, and conversation. The students asked Jerry if he has been on the streets for a lot of days. He commented "It's almost 2010, right? I've been here since 2006." That's a lot of days.

I do have to apologize for my behavior: they students had birthday cake in their bag. I had a great deal of time controlling myself and wanted to enjoy the cake. After some pressure, I finally relented and listened to the "leave it" command from Jason.

By the way, kudos to the students volunteering their time at the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter.

I've also made friends with another gentleman. He's a little more quiet: he didn't really talk at all. I met him along the sidewalk in his wheelchair. I approached slowly. He started to pet me, so I put my paws up on his lap. He pet me more so I got into his lap and sat down. His weary face warmed up and came a live for a few short moments.  That's another story, however.

This is the gift of a therapy dog. As my teacher Maureen Ross says, I share with people, in my own way, that someday, something good will happen, as it did when I found Jason. Until then, I'll sit on your lap, give you some attention, a kiss, and accept you as you are.