My wife and I would take our chocolate lab with us on home and nursing home visits in the community I last served as an interim minister. My wife had never done this before.
Widowed, we married when I was an interim and she was an executive in the corporate world. She retired in 2008 emotionally tired of laying off employees during the recession. She embarked on a new vocation, that of being an artist and she gladly accompanied me on those pastoral visits.
With the marriage, I inherited the first of what would become four chocolate labs. The following is about a nursing home visit with the third lab, Boomer. I had intended to write a poem, but it came out a short story:
Holding Boomer Firmly By the Leash
When the elevator opened, she was waiting for me and my wife, quickly greeted the two of us and then bent down to pet the lab profusely.
Before I could ask if we should go to her room she said, “Let’s go over here around the corner, so we won’t be bothered by anyone.” She meant that she wanted the dog to herself. Boomer complied by sitting on her feet.
An elderly gentleman came around the corner and my parishioner told us to ignore him. He stopped and wanted to pet the dog. She told him that what was the friendliest dog in the world wasn’t friendly at all and that he shouldn’t attempt to pet him and that he should just move right along.
After some silence, she said that when she was a child, her dog broke away from her…. She began to cry and didn’t finish the story. Recovering, she wiggled her toes, Boomer wagged his tail and the three of us gossiped a bit about parishioners departed having long ago received their heavenly reward. She knew that one should never speak ill of the dead, but she didn’t mean any harm and thought that the dearly departed probably were getting a kick listening in on the conversation.
When it was time to leave, we accompanied my parishioner back to her room. On the way, we quickly (at her instruction) passed residents in wheelchairs along the walls. She, holding dearly onto the lab by his leash, said proudly and emphatically that Boomer had come to visit her.
In the parking lot, Boomer hopped in the backseat and we headed to one of our favorite restaurants for “Happy Hour.”