While my initial reason for getting Ollie certified was so that he could keep me from having a full-blown panic attack every time I got on an airplane, I soon began taking him with me on the weekends when I ran errands, too. I'm one of those dog parents who feels horribly guilty when I have to leave my pooch at home alone on the weekend after he's been at home alone all week while I'm at work. And besides that, those of you who've been reading along with me for a while know that shopping runs riding on an airplane a darn close second when it comes to anxiety-producing activities for me. It only took a few weekend errand-running excursions for me to recognize how much less anxious or stressed I feel when I take Ollie along with me. Just as I have no idea why I suddenly began having anxiety over things I never used to feel anxious about, I also have no idea nor can I offer any explanation as to how or why my little wiener dog helps me the way he does. All I know is that anxiety and panic attacks suck big time and Ollie is a Jedi master of calming me down.
I'll readily admit that in the beginning my desire to have Ollie become a certified emotional support animal was completely and totally selfish. Yep, that's right ... in the beginning, it was absolutely all about him helping me. I don't know why I didn't see it before, but I've recently come to realize that my little pal helps far more people than just me. The photos I post and the stories I share on Facebook of his wiener dog adventures bring chuckles to lots and lots of people. Tired and weary travelers go from frowning to smiling the minute they see Ollie prancing through an airport. Starbucks drive-thru workers giggle like little kids as he happily gobbles up the whipped cream in his puppuccino. Shoppers and workers alike grin from ear to ear as they exclaim, "Oh, my gosh, he's so adorable!" when they see him sitting atop his blanket in the kid seat of the shopping cart. Girl Scouts selling cookies outside of Walmart ask if they can give him one. People ask if they can pet him. People ask if they can hold him. People ask if he can come and sit with them in their wheelchairs. The plain and simple truth is that Ollie helps far more people than me, friends ... the plain and simple truth is that there's something about Ollie that just makes people happy.
For all the wonderful scenarios about people and Ollie that I just mentioned, however, a couple of weeks ago, something happened on a Saturday that completely eliminated any teeny-tiny, itsy-bitsy lingering shred of doubt I might have had about my little hound's capacity for helping others. I had some extra time in between a couple of appointments, so I decided to stop by Half Price Books and pick up the book I needed for book club. It was just after opening time, so there were more employees than shoppers in the store. It seemed like only seconds after I asked where I could find the particular book I was looking for that Ollie and I were surrounded by every single employee in the building. They were all oohing and aahing over my adorable furry companion when suddenly one of the girls who looked to be a little older than the others in the group stepped closer to me, leaned over and gazed deeply into Ollie's eyes. When I told her she could pet him if she'd like, she looked up at me and I immediately noticed that she had tears in her eyes.
"I love your dog," she said in a soft voice that cracked as she spoke. "He's staring into my soul. Do you see him?"
I have to admit that I was taken aback by her words ... in all of the encounters Ollie and I have had with other people, no one has ever said my dog was staring into their soul. I didn't have a clue what to say to the girl, so I just nodded my head and smiled. She wiped at the tears that were by then running down her cheeks as she turned and spoke to the co-worker who was standing to her right.
"Look at his eyes, Sarah ... do you see his eyes? They're soulful ... he has eyes that see what people don't see. This dog is staring into my soul, Sarah ... do you see him?"
I'm one of those people who believes that everything happens for a reason, and I think there was a reason that my first appointment ended early on that cold and snowy Saturday morning. I don't believe it was mere coincidence that I decided to spend my unexpected extra time in the bookstore ... not even a little bit do I believe that was simply happenstance. Though I don't know what was going on with the young woman and I'm sure I never will, I do know that my sweet Ollie boy helped her somehow ... somehow, my little wiener dog stared into that gal's soul and helped her.
Needless to say, I've thought a great deal about the young woman and her reaction to Ollie that day, and in doing so I've come to realize that there's a huge lesson to be gleaned from what took place in those few minutes that morning ... a lesson that's not just for me, but for all of us. Some of you will think it's stupidly simple, and some of you will think it's impossibly difficult. What do I think? I think it could easily be life-changing.
We can't help each other until we stare into each other's souls.
I think I'll leave you to ponder on that one for a while ... roll it around in your mind and let it settle into your heart. Be careful, though ... it may well change the way you look at those around you ... it very may well indeed.