“I don’t think they allow puppies in the library,” the woman said to Squints, her eyes wide behind her round glasses.
After two weeks, my son has memorized his lines: “He’s a service dog in training.”
“You know,” she persisted, “that you have to give him back.”
Well, yeah. That’s kind of the point.
Now that we have Destructo, people feel free to tell us all kinds of things: They tell us they hope he fails, so that we can keep him permanently. They tell us they could never give a dog back, if they were raising one. And they tell us their stories: Stories about the dogs they’ve owned; stories about their friend who raised five service dogs and had to replace her kitchen floor three times; stories about how they wish they could have a dog but their husband doesn’t want one.
I used to be so comfortable with my suburban anonymity. What happened?
Well, we got Destructo and everything changed.
Destructo isn’t a chick magnet. He’s not a guy magnet. Not even a baby magnet. He’s an everyone magnet. Everywhere we go, we’re swarmed with fans. Not our fans, of course: Destructo fans. Squints and I—we’re merely agents in this deal, answering questions; making sure he doesn’t gnaw on fingers; gaining his entrance to the bank, the library, the university, the salon, even—yes, I’m ashamed to admit it—even to Starbucks.
People love to tell their stories, and Destructo is a means of opening the door to those tales. Suddenly, any time we go out with Destructo, we find ourselves caught in the net of the stories of others. A woman told us about her family Chihuahua who would sit in the baby swing for hours at a time and lived to be twenty. A man told my husband and me all about his hunting dog. At the bank the other day, a woman squatted next to Destructo and began petting him. She told us how she really, really wants a dog. She’s got two cats at home, but…She sighed and rose. “Maybe when I retire.”
Among people’s most prized possessions are their stories; the histories of who they are, where they came from and who they hope to become. These stories may come exquisitely wrapped or in a crumpled gift bag, obviously reused. But each story, as part of the history of a human being, is priceless.
What do we do with this collection of stories given to us; this anthology of the lives of strangers? What obligation do we have to people who share their stories? To people who reach out to us in loneliness, in friendship, to establish a tenuous connection? Do we toss these stories away? Reject them as useless?
It would be easy to dismiss these stories; easy for Squints and me to just roll our eyes at each other and wait for the person to quit yapping already and let us get on with our day.
But what is our purpose in life, if not to listen to the stories of others?
So instead, we slow down. We take the time to listen to the story of the elderly woman’s German Shepherd; to let the little kids pat Destructo’s fuzzy little back; to I’m sorry the woman who just had her dog put to sleep and didn’t think she was ready to get a new one yet.
Are we, indeed, trapped in the net of the stories of others? Perhaps instead those stories are segments of a long, invisible thread that binds each of us together; a thread that we all hang onto, trying to get through this life as best we can, telling our stories along the way to anyone who will listen and occasionally even listening to a few.
So despite the fact that he pulled the rod out of the curtains this morning; despite the fact that he tore the lining from the bottom of my son’s box springs; despite the fact that he has suddenly become very amorous around stuffed animals, Destructo, in all his flurry of activity, has taught us to slow down.
Destructo has taught us to listen to the stories of others.
Labels: Community, Service Animals, Stories