I’ve made no secret of my fondness for dogs. I grew up with them, and ever since I moved away from my parents as a young person, I’ve had at least one dog (and, more commonly, three) in my life. I’ve written about my experiences with dogs here from time to time on Slope, and the picture on the right is me on Saturday getting to hold a three month old Bernese a friend recently brought into his own family.
This is not a story about the purebred cutie-pie shown here, however. The dog I have in mind was one I saw much earlier in the day, just around sunrise, when I was traipsing around the parking lot of the East Palo Alto Home Depot (AKA not the most elegant place on the planet). I was charging my car up and taking my two larger dogs on their customary morning walk, which at this particular location means examining every single box and bag the find on the ground just in case there are any crusts or tidbits leftover. (There have been occasions when entire pizzas have been found, which to them is like Christmas Day).
As we were walking, I noticed a large dog curled up next to a beat-up old van. I have very good peripheral vision, and an eye for trouble, which always served me well when our kids were very young, so I instantly noticed the dog from a distance. I also noticed he had a tennis ball tucked right next to him, and it was immediately obvious that this tennis ball was the dog’s most treasured asset.
He stood up and started trotting our way, and then I noticed the man he was with, whose presence had been obscured by the same van. The man seemed to have hardly any teeth left, and he was very dirty and scraggly looking. He could probably tell I was a little apprehensive, having two dogs on leash, as his unleashed dog came in our direction. (For those less familiar with canines, dogs don’t like imbalances in power, and being leashed while an unleashed dog comes toward you is disturbing to some).
The dog was clearly friendly and well-mannered, however, and I let my middle dog out on the lead some so they could get acquainted. My biggest dog is unpredictable with others, so I didn’t let her play, and after a short while, I gave a tug on the taut leash and continued on our way. The homeless dog made his way back to his owner and the beat-up old van. And his tennis ball.
A few minutes later, as I was heading back to my own car, I saw the man throwing the ball in the parking lot, and his dog would joyfully bound over and fetch it. They did this again and again. And the whole scene warmed and broke my heart at the same time, because this man was obviously very poor, and yet his dog (who, by the way, was vastly better-behaved than any of my own dogs) was completely content with the world. He had his tennis ball, and that was enough. And, for the man, this activity gave him some joy as well, since it was clear to me he loved the dog, and he knew he was making the dog happy.
But it all made sense. Because, to our betters, this…………
……….are all the same thing. One ball is the same as a five is the same as a hundred. Yet I live in a world where a man told me, with a straight face, that he only had one hundred million dollars, and if he had played his cards right, he would have had a billion.
We truly are out of our minds. That dog knew a truth which evades the rest of us: he had everything he needed, and it was enough.