Today was Immy's Birthday. I actually forgot until I received an email from the vet saying: HAPPY BIRTHDAY IMMY! Oh my, it was already late in the day and it hadn't even entered my mind. I fell all over her with good wishes and affection, feeling so badly that I had forgotten her special day!
Such as it is when guilt hits, we tend to want to do whatever it takes to make it up to them. So when we went out for our evening walk a little while later, I told Immy that we could go Wherever She Wanted To Go! It must have made her very happy, for she can be very expressive in letting me know when it does not please her to go in a particular direction. She will stand still, rooted to her place, refusing to make eye contact until one of us wins. The one with the leash in her hand usually wins.
This particular walk, I assumed she would want to travel to the nearby Anza Trail. It is always one of our favorite walking destinations. There was still plenty of light in the sky and we had lots of time to make the trek.
We started at the nearby woodpile and recycle center, which is where she prefers to start most mornings. Then, following her lead, we headed out the back gate to the woodsy easement that leads to the tree-lined street behind our house. To the right, up the hill, to the church where we make our first decision. Which Way? We cross the street, take the sidewalk that winds beyond the church to the Presidio and onward to the path that leads to the Anza Trail. She was leading the way. Confidently. She knew exactly where she wanted to take us.
Then, midway down the path en route to the trail, she stopped in her tracks. She refused to move. "C'mon Immy, let's go!" No response. Staring straight ahead, focusing only on her strong will.
"Okay," I said. "It's your birthday so....whatever you want to do."
Joey and I retraced our steps and we all walked back up the path we had just taken. A little while later we arrived at the edge of town. Ah, I thought, she must want to walk through town and check to see if there are any chicken wings or sandwiches in the various trash cans about the place.
But no, she chose the road that leads back home.
"You wanna go home already?" I asked her. No answer. She just stared straight down the street, paws planted. "OK. It's your birthday. We'll go home if you want to go home." Down we went, back down the street to our house. But then when we reached our house, she surprised me. She wanted to keep walking down the street. "OK," I said, "It's your birthday."
About halfway down the next block we saw a man walking a dog. It was a man we recognized because we had seen him a dozen or so times walking his dog, Pepper, around town. As we got closer, I didn't think Pepper looked the same. Something was definitely different.
"Hi... Is ...that your dog?" It definitely wasn't the same dog.
I asked the man, "Did you get a new dog?"
Something was wrong.
"No," he replied as he pulled out a handkerchief, "I'm dog-sitting for a couple of weeks."
"Where's your dog?" I asked, showing concern in my voice.
He wiped his eyes. "Pepper died." The man was crying now. "It's been a month and a half."
So right there we did a little bit of grief work while the three dogs milled around each other. It was obvious the man did not have anyone who understood his heart and soul relationship with his dog of 11 years. He was new in town too. He didn't have a lot of friends. His best friend had been Pepper.
"Maybe you should read a book that I wrote..."
"I would like that," he replied.
So we walked to my house and I gave him a copy of "Reflections".
"I'm a very slow reader," he warned me. He struggles with vision problems.
"It's okay. Jack is very patient. He will only go as fast as you can go. And if it's too difficult, a large print copy is on its way right now. I should have it by Monday," I said, realizing that all of this was By Design that we were here in this place; that I had ordered a Large Print Version, the first one off the press with the new cover, just a few days before.
So the next time I think that Immy shows little concern for anything, aloof and uncaring, I will remember this. I realize that had it not been her birthday, I would have coerced her down to the Anza Trail and we would have had no synchronistic story to tell at all.
We ended up going back out to finish our walk later and once again Immy led the way. As we walked through La Encantada, an upscale shopping plaza, she stopped outside of Elvira's Restaurant. She knows fine dining when she sees it. She fixed her gaze upon it and stood there, her feet rooted into place.
"No Immy. Sorry. I know it's your birthday and all but I have to draw the line. Let's go home and have some dinner." She turned back to join us and we walked happily back home. She probably already knew that I had some liver thawing out on the counter for her special dinner.
Thank you Immy. Thank you Jack for sending Immy into our lives. Thank you to God and the angels and this man's father who crossed over five years ago on this Father's Day. All of them perhaps were working together to make things happen so that we would all be at the right place at the right time.