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Dog Diaries

The Holiday Hounds Bring Christmas Cheer - Part 2

by Ron Powell

~~The first of the Chosen,
With his human in tow,
had scouted the city
for those with troubles and woe.

They’d roam and they’d seek
for those most in need,
then set the right path
through all their good deeds.

It was warm and inviting in Dr. Stern's office. He'd decorated for Christmas early and in his eclectic style. He had a Newton's Cradle made of Christmas Tree Ornaments, a wreath with a banner that said "Christmas is not just for the Jung at heart" and red and green lava lamps. Lilly eyed, with some amusement, the shelf full of Dr. Stern's new book "Greyhound Therapy: Getting your life Back. Off Track," with Jack Squat, who was currently lounging beneath Dr. Stern's chair, prominently pictured on the cover. She had a signed copy, of course. Dr. Stern had one with a paw print – signed by Jack Squat.

Lilly had made a lot of progress but still saw Dr. Stern, albeit less frequently than she used to. She always brought Jack Squat because Dr. Stern loved having him in the office.

Dr. Stern watched Lilly for a moment as he idly scratched Jack in his favorite spot, which was anywhere, and thought how nice it was that Lilly still brought Jack to each session. She really liked bringing him for the therapeutic value and he certainly wasn't going to keep a patient from a valuable resource if it was helping her.

"So, tell me, Lilly, how have you been since our last visit?"

Lilly thought for a moment and responded to his query. "Well, it's been a really weird couple of days. Good days, but very odd. Jack Squat has lead me on all sorts of odd adventures."

"Oh, really? Like what?"

"Well, the first time, Jack Squat and I were taking our normal morning walk. Jack Squat picked something up from the sidewalk before I could see what it was and immediately took off down the street with me in tow. I couldn't get him to stop. He walked me right through a big crowd, then stuck his nose into some gentleman's rear end! I was so embarrassed, but when he turned around, Jack Squat dropped what he'd been carrying in his mouth. It was a wallet. Well, after he dropped it, it was a relatively moist wallet. The gentleman looked at the wallet, patted his suit jacket, and evidently realized he'd lost his wallet. Sure enough, Jack Squat returned that wallet to the man. He took out his driver's license to show us it was him. Turns out, he'd had this wallet for 20 years. It was the last gift his son had given him before going off to college. It was very sentimental to him. He made a huge fuss over Jack Squat and told everyone to 'look at this four legged Samaritan,' and stuff like that. He tried to give us a reward but, of course, I'd never take it. Jack Squat sure made a friend that day!"

"That's quite the adventure." Dr. Stern was a little skeptical about calling this an adventure, but he humored Lilly.

Lilly could see that Dr. Stern wasn’t really on board with the story yet, but she continued. "The day after that, Jack and I were going to the Mall for 'Pet Day'. We were meandering towards the back entrance of the Mall,"

"Even though the front entrance was probably more convenient?" Dr. Stern asked sweetly.

"The Back entrance, because the front lots were full, thank you very much!" Lilly knew she still had progress to make, but she wanted to be absolutely sure Dr. Stern knew she wasn't avoiding people as much as she had been.

"My apologies, Lilly." Dr. Stern knew Lilly wasn't avoiding people as much as she used to, but he wanted to be absolutely sure Lilly knew that he cared about her progress.

"Anyway, there we are, walking down the parking lot when Jack Squat just lies down between two cars. No amount of tugging on his leash would move him. Finally I knelt down behind one of the cars to entice him with treats and love when, out of the blue, this guy trips over Jack Squat and face plants in the middle of the lane. Jack Squat got up, nonchalantly, and came over to me. Then, some guy and a Cop runs up between the cars and sees the guy groaning in the middle of the 'street.' The Cop slaps cuffs on the guy and wheels around on Jack Squat and me to make sure we're ok and tells us this guy on the ground just robbed the fellow standing next to him. The guy who got robbed was out buying Christmas gifts for kids who lived in a homeless shelter. The robber took all their gift cards and donations they were going to use for the kids' toys! When they took my statement - even though he's cute, Jack Squat isn't much of a talker so he didn't give a statement - and we got everything sorted out and the money returned, Jeff - the guy from the Shelter - insisted that we come to the shelter on Christmas Day so we could help give out gifts. He even took a quick selfie with Jack Squat."

"You seem to be having some interesting luck lately," said Dr. Stern. Dr. Stern wasn't a big believer in coincidences or the like, but he sure was happy that Lilly was being more and more social as time went on.

"That's not the half of it!” Lilly exclaimed.

"We were walking back to our car. We'd been downtown for an appearance with some local Marines for 'Toys for Tots,' you see. Anyway, the street is kind of busy, and I... accidentally didn't cross at a crosswalk. We get halfway to the other side when Jack Squat just froze. He wouldn't move again. That's when I noticed the city bus coming down the road. It was going pretty fast, nothing too major, but I noticed the driver not paying attention to the road. When he looks up and sees me frantically tugging on Jack Squat, he hits the breaks and comes to a really-not-too-dramatic halt in front of Jack Squat and me. He opened his mouth, I think it was to apologize, when these two kids on bikes shoot across the road. I watched them. They didn't pay a bit of attention to the traffic at all. The bus driver just put the bus in park, opened the side door, came out and apologized to us while watching those two kids just ride away. He said, 'You know, I'm not much of a religious man, but those two kids had God, an angel and a dog on their side today.' Once the bus driver made sure we were all right, Jack Squat calmly walked to the other side of the street like nothing happened. Several people on the bus cheered him and took pictures as they rode by. It was kind of intense."

"Come now, you're kidding me now, right?" Dr. Stern’s interest was piqued regardless of whether it was coincidences, voodoo, magic or mumbo-jumbo.

"Not at all. It's like something out of a bad Christmas movie. Shall I tell you what happened just yesterday?"

"Please do, Lilly. Your adventures with Jack are compelling to say the least!" Dr. Stern was, literally and figuratively, on the edge of his seat.

"Well, we were walking after dinner when Jack Squat literally pulled me across the street and nearly put his paws through a car's window. There was a lady sitting in the front seat. I rushed over to apologize for Jack Squat's behavior and that's when I realized she was crying."

"Crying, you say?" Always repeat what the patient says in the form of a question, Dr. Stern thought contentedly. It makes the patient aware that you're listening and prompts them to continue their story. They never even know what you're doing and the patients love it.

"Yes, crying," Lilly said. She hated it when Dr. Stern repeated what she said in the form of a question. There was no changing his habits, but she was getting used to it, no matter how obvious a ploy it was or how much it annoyed her. "She was startled by Jack Squat and tried to hide her crying before she rolled her window down, but I could see she was sad."

"So, what did you do?"

"Well, before I could say anything, Jack Squat pushed his face in the car and gave her a big ol' kiss. I was mortified and tried to apologize, but she just opened her door and gave Jack Squat the biggest hug. She started crying again, so I asked her what was wrong, of course. It turns out that she'd lost her job, had no money and nowhere to go. She was so overwhelmed with it all that she just drove around until her car ran out of gas and started to cry. She literally coasted her car into the spot it was parked in and had no money to put more gas in it."

"What did you do, Lilly?"

"I asked her to hold Jack Squat. I ran into the Chinese place she happened to be parked in front of, bought her some food and we sat in her car for over an hour eating and talking. She'd had nothing to eat since lunch the day before because she hadn't any money. I just let her talk and cry it all out over dim sum and spring rolls. I told her I understood how it felt to be lost and how nothing made sense and how, sometimes, you just lived through each day because you didn't know what else to do. She started to feel a little embarrassed and told me I could just go, but I could see she was still pretty sad. I asked her if she had a place to go. She said she didn't so I offered to let her come to my place and shower and wash her clothes and maybe we could make some calls for her. I've never done something like that before, Dr. Stern."

"Inviting someone to your house was certainly a big step, but I would have worried for your safety. What made you do this very humanitarian, but potentially unsafe, thing?" Dr. Stern was all for progress, but times had changed and you had to look out for your safety in this day and age.

Lilly thought for a moment. "I guess it was Jack Squat. The whole time we were in her car, he tried to give her kisses and show her affection. He's a pretty good judge of character, I guess. Anyway, we went back to my place and she took me up on the shower. While she was in the shower, Jack Squat got into her purse and pulled out an old cell phone. I took it from him and immediately apologized to Mary - that was her name, by the way - through the bathroom door. She just laughed and said she didn't care about that old thing and 'she hadn't charged it in months, anyway'. Well, I found an old adapter I had and started charging it for her. I don't know why. I just thought it would be a nice gesture. Mary came out of the shower in the robe I lent her and we watched some tv while we waited for her clothes to dry. Dr. Stern, this is when things got a little weird. Her phone rang. Mary about jumped out of her seat. She told me that she'd canceled her service months ago because she couldn't afford it. She grabbed the phone and looked at the number on the little screen. She flipped the phone open and said hello. She listened for a while and started crying all over again. She dropped the phone on the floor and went back to the bathroom. I picked it up and said 'Hello?' The person on the other end of the phone identified herself as Mary's sister. She'd been paying for Mary's cell phone bill for the last few months and has been trying to call her every day in the hopes that she'd answer. She told me they hadn't spoken for years, but wanted to see her sister again. She told me she received a post card in the mail with a paw print on it and all it said was "Call Mary." So she did. Everyday. Could I 'please get Mary back on the phone?’"

"That's... pretty incredible, Lilly." If he couldn’t see Lilly’s face, Dr. Stern was not sure he would have believed the story. "Did you manage to get her back on the phone?"

"I did get Mary back on the phone. Her sister wired her money for a plane ticket. All I had to do was help her pick up the money, help her book a flight and get her to the airport. So, once her clothes were dry and she was dressed, Jack Squat and I took her to get her money, we booked a flight for her on the internet and drove her to the airport. She kissed Jack Squat on the nose and gave me a hug and told me that she didn't know what was going to happen once she got off the plane but she felt like she could do anything, make it through anything, because of the kindness of a stranger. She made a pretty big scene about it, telling everyone how Jack Squat and I were so kind, etc. It was a little embarrassing, but also a little heartwarming. We couldn't walk her into the airport, of course, but she waved to us until we were out of sight. It was uplifting and strange and all week has been one surprise after another."

"I can only imagine. What tricks are you two going to pull today?" Dr. Stern looked at Lilly for a while, concerned but grateful she was ok.

"I think, today, we're just going to go to the office for a few hours and then maybe go home to dinner and an early bed time. It's been a pretty tough week."

He found first the one,
A man of great means,
Who, very humble himself,
Was not all that he seems.

Then came the second,
A man on a mission,
He stopped a fell crime
During its commission.

He then stopped the traffic
And caused a small fuss,
But saved two young Children
From the lumbering bus.

The last was a Lady,
forlorn and despairing.
Her life turned around
with a stranger’s kind caring.

The first of the Chosen,
his good deeds all done now,
brought Joy to the people
all through the town.

The whispers they'd started,
and they grew and they grew,
about these beacons of joy
with four feet and two.

The next Chosen's task
was the next up for sure.
To bring Christmas Cheer
and make them yearn for much more.

Greyhounds aren't just dogs, they are a way of life!