Monday, 18 November 2013

The Kindness of Strangers

For the first few years we lived in our current house, a regular fixture on our street was the vista of an old man, walking haltingly down the road with his little black poodle. Over time, we got to know that man, Hank was his name. We also came to know his wife and their dog, Muffin - a ten-year old little fellow who always seemed hesitant with strangers and to be honest, not that approachable or friendly. Well over a year ago, Hank sadly passed away and by a stroke of very bad luck, his wife Marilyn fell and broke her hip. Somehow, after a few initial and intermittent requests for assistance, my partner Kirk came to be responsible for walking Muffin twice daily, morning and night - weekends and weekdays - literally hundreds of times up and down the boulevards of our neighbourhood, a job that Marilyn can no longer do. Kirk has done this task without a single word of complaint - in all kinds of weather - dutifully lacing up his shoes and heading out into the night - a rescue mission that no one else in the neighbourhood would seriously entertain. In that time, Muffin has been altered - a different dog entirely - able to pick his own pace and rhythm - as a patient Kirk gently allowed him to take the lead. When the walk is over - Kirk will pop into the house - listen to Marilyn's stories about her day and years past. In that time he has learned all about her young life, meeting her husband - the lives of her children. He understood inherently from the beginning that his mission never was just about the dog. The other day a note arrived in our mailbox from Ontario - addressed to our whole family - but really it was directed solely to Kirk. It was a card from Marilyn's daughter - offering her heartfelt thanks for all of the kindnesses Kirk has offered - for going "above and beyond" - and acknowledging when we move away from this neighbourhood - this arrangement will come to an end. For now, Muffin paces excitedly each morning and night - waiting for his lovely friend to come to call. Offering his gentle kisses when Kirk carries him down their front stairs. Frankly I do not know which one of them will be more heartbroken when this comes to an end.

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