She caught my eye as I was finishing up the discharge paperwork for Nico and making a down payment for Pistol, the puppy I had gotten as a Christmas gift for one of my many “children," the ones who didn’t have a good support system in place, who had come to rely on me as their “mom.”
She caught my eye because, even though I was stressed, distracted, overwhelmed with worry and, I'm sorry, also the cost of dealing with a Parvovirus infected puppy all weekend, she generated warmth and positivity as she breezed through the door of the vet. That, and the puppy she had with her- a light brown lab mix with amber eyes- generated that same warmth, that same positive and loving energy.
As the woman explained to the vet tech she was new to the area and that her dog appeared to have an eye infection, I really truly tried not to eavesdrop. But something intrigued me and drew me in. As I tried not to listen, I invariably heard that the woman lived in a local shelter. The puppy was a rescue and currently living with the woman's father while the woman was trying to get on her feet. As she talked, the bright-eyed, cheery woman interacted with her equally bright-eyed, cheery puppy. It was easy to get caught up in the display of unconditional love.
The tech remained formal and impersonal, and I understand why. I understand although I don't necessarily agree or accept. The tech informed the woman that there was a fee to be seen. She said it unwaveringly, and I guess I admire that....in a strange way. Again, I understand policies and regulations. Again, that doesn't mean I agree or accept that. The woman, still positive and cheerful, expressed her understanding, took the dog, and headed out the door. But I saw something break in her face. We all have our breaking point. Was I witnessing hers? Up to that point, I had resolved to NOT get involved. I had felt myself getting drawn in and made a conscious decision to STOP. I had already spent all weekend and more than a small amount of money to save one life....... wasn't that enough?
I walked out to my car, with the woman and dog right behind me. I opened my car door, started to get in......and stopped. I walked back over to her car where she was loading up the puppy and said, "Can I help?" She said, "I don't have any money. I'm living in a shelter... I don't have much right now." Her face shifted from the glowing positivity I had witnessed earlier to shame. "Come on!" I said. "Your puppy needs medical attention!" Tears streamed down her face and mine, too. What we shared, briefly, at that moment, was not a sense of being rescued, of heroism, but more a sense of compassion. Human to human to animals that we love and fiercely protect.
I don't know her name or the name of her puppy. But I know their hearts. I know that I met a woman who had little and was struggling, but who still cared about the well-being of a sick, vulnerable animal. That is selflessness. I know that I met a puppy who knew her heart, too, and knew she would do whatever it took to make it all better. That is trust. I know we were put here to help each other out and that spending or not spending money will never be more important than the intrinsic value of life.