We have a society that seems to believe that the elderly and infirm have nothing to show us or give to us. That’s why I was so touched by a recent story posted on my Facebook timeline about a young girl who befriended an elderly man in the grocery store. It seems this little sprite has a heart for elderly people and she wants to “love ‘em all up before they is died.” I think this girl and my dog, Lexy, are cut from the same cloth.
Found shivering and cold under a pallet in the woods of South Carolina, this pitiful little ball of black fluff has grown to become the kindest, most gentle creature I have ever known. She is not aggressive, hyper or needy. She adores people and cats but is a little leery of other dogs. I used to think this was odd, but as I watched her the other day, I realized that Lexy has a higher “calling” than being just an average dog. She is here to give love and care to those who need it most.
I know. You think I’m making this up, but those who have seen her in action will attest.
We take nearly daily walks around a beautiful dog park here in Colorado. While other dogs chase each other and play, Lexy follows closely beside me happily completing her daily constitutional while enjoying the sights and smells of one of her favorite places on earth. Okay, sure, there’s the occasional swim or chasing of a stick, but otherwise, she follows me, waiting for the time she is needed…
…and the times come nearly every day.
Sometimes it’s the cry of a baby. Lexy hears it and immediately starts toward the sound to find the baby and comfort it. She’ll lick its feet, nuzzle its face, and do whatever she can to help.
Sometimes it’s an elderly person who is a seated alone on a bench. She’ll walk up calmly and “ask” to be petted, licking their thin, soft skin and leaning against their legs.
Just the other day, it was a young man with physical and mental challenges that was being pushed in his wheelchair around the park. When Lexy saw him, she immediately trotted to his side, nuzzled his hand and then sat beside him and waited. She wasn’t looking for food or someone to throw a ball. She wanted to just sit near him and spend time.
Similarly, when my parents lived here, she would do this same thing for them anytime she had the chance to stay at “camp”. Anytime my dad got up to go out of the room, Lexy would walk behind him always keeping a safe distance, but seemingly staying close enough to “help” should he fall. At night, she would diligently watch over my dad and stepmom, moving from room to room to make sure they each were okay, and then taking post in the living room to watch for any unknown critters that needed to be guarded against.
As I read the story on the little girl today I realized what a precious gem both she and my dog are. In a time when people are spending millions of dollars a year to try to achieve “agelessness”and those with physical and mental challenges are still struggling to find a place, there are old souls – human and canine alike – who feel drawn to bridge that gap and let each of these people know they are precious and loved; that they are as much a part of the tapestry of this world as everyone else and those of us who don’t recognize that are missing out on some of life’s biggest blessings.
I know I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t already know or haven’t already heard. People of faith in particular often have generous hearts and are willing to see beyond age and disability, but just in case, let me share some of things Lexy would tell you if she had thumbs and could type.
- The older someone is, the more love they deserve: Don’t rush by because they move slowly and don’t stop listening because they already told you that story. Walk with them anyway, listen to them anyway.
- Those with disabilities see the world differently. Learn from them: Being dependent upon a wheelchair, unable to speak clearly because of a stutter, or being stared at because muscles act on their own accord is challenging enough. Don’t dismiss the person because of the difficulty. Instead, see how much they do despite the struggle. If they can’t speak, sit with them and wait. They will teach you lessons if you only pay attention.
- Be caring and gentle always: Old age and physical challenges are exhausting. Don’t add to the frustration by demanding they respond to you in your time or in your preferred method. Be adaptable and accepting.
- Love them until…: I know it sounds daunting, but loving someone doesn’t mean that, like the little girl in the story above, you need to make another person a member of your family (although you certainly could!). Sometimes your time with this person is only a few moments. Offer them the love a dog would show – unconditional and genuine – for the moment they are a part of your world. I guarantee this will make your life and theirs far better.