My dog and I were walking the streets of Barranco , district of Lima, Peru, as usual. A woman with a young child approached from the opposite direction.
The little girl hid behind her mother’s skirts. She wanted to pet the big dog, but was a little scared. Her mother encouraged her ( in Spanish, of course).
“Go ahead. It is OK. He is very gentle.”
Falcor, my dog, seemed to understand. He approached the little girl and nuzzled her softly. At first she backed away. Finally , she reached out and stroked the soft fur of my dog. The touch brought a smile to her face. It was the pleasure of contact with a warm friendly animal. I could see that the fear was going away. It was safe to touch this animal.
In turn Falcor showed his pleasure by licking the hand of his admirer. As her confidence grew, the child stroked the dog’s head and patted him on the back. Falcor loves this kind of attention.
This went on for a few minutes and then we parted, but I could see that both the child and the dog were still glowing with the feelings of this encounter.
In the many years that I have walked with my dogs in Barranco, I have seen many such encounters. Some sort of basic chemistry goes on. I call it the touch. It seems to be a fundamental thing that goes on between people and dogs. I think that both need this type of contact. Certainly, it is a strong physical connection.
I have seen the same thing go on with all sorts of people: worker types, crabby old ladies, teenage girls. It often surprises me to see the transformation. A sour individual becomes a relaxed smiling person, at least for a few minutes. In a way, Falcor and I were a walking mental health program.
Of course, it doesn’t happen with everyone. Some are afraid and stay away, even going to the other side of the street. I am sad for these people, something is missing from their lives.
When I moved to Peru from the U.S, I decided to get a dog. I had two reasons. First, the dog needed walking , and I would be compelled to get some exercise. Second, the walk around the neighborhood would put me in contact with the people. I wouldn’t be isolated.
So every day, twice a day, I went out for a walk with the dog. This was a good habit to get into and the exercise was good for me. Still it was the contact with the people that enriched my life. I have met a lot of people, had many interesting conversations and definitely made my mark in our little neighborhood.
Falcor is gone now and I was walking with Arena until a leg problem sidelined me. I’m looking forward to the day when I’ll be back out in the neighborhood walking my dog and talking with the people.