Every morning I go to the dog park. It is the highlight of my dogs’ day. Their eyes follow me all morning, looking for that step toward the leashes…it must be something about the way that I walk, but they start to get excited even before I get there. An excited flurry of circles and barks ensues while I try to put on the leashes and grab the doggie bags…but we eventually get to the dog park, where they spend the entire hour sitting in a lap or under my chair.
It’s always the anticipation, isn’t it?
This year, a new dog visitor arrived, a shy male chihuahua about 4 months old. Very fearful, he hid under his owners’ chairs. Most people’s instinct is to cuddle the animal to reassure him, but these were experienced dog owners who knew better. So, they read their newspapers while he cowered under a chair. And there he sat for a couple of weeks.
They gave him an occasional pet, but otherwise ignored him. He slowly began to venture from his spot, sniffing a dog and then running back. Each day he ventured out a little more. Sometimes an older dog would snap at him, but the owners knew not to intervene. Their puppy gradually learned to speak “dog” and understood who wanted to play and who did not. Fast forward two months and this little guy now greets every dog and person who enters with his waggy tail and excited bark. He runs around the park letting people pet him and playing with other dogs.
He owns this park.
It reminds me of a similar experience that I had with my daughter. She had just graduated from college and landed a job in Philadelphia. She got an apartment with a friend who was going to graduate school at Penn. But it didn’t work out, her friend finished the master’s program early and left my daughter friendless in a strange city carrying the rent.
While our daughter struggled, my husband and I had challenges of our own. He had been in a serious accident while we were spending a long weekend in Key West and was medevaced to a Miami Hospital where he endured 8 surgeries over a month long stay. After leaving the hospital, he needed round the clock care requiring us to stay in Key West, 1500 miles away from our struggling daughter. Then, through no fault of her own, she lost her job. There she was, out of work, in a strange city with another 6 months on a lease that she couldn’t afford and we couldn’t come to her aid when she needed us the most. She hesitantly negotiated herself out of the lease and a friend of ours helped her move and gave her a place to stay in New Jersey while she applied for jobs in New York City.
It didn’t go well. The loss of her first job was a stain on her resume and it took over 6 months and almost 50 job interviews before she finally landed a job. After securing an apartment, her NYC roommate pulled out at the last minute. So she had to share her apartment with a stranger. It was a very difficult year, as her father’s injury hid a grave illness and he died 8 months later. It was a lot for her to deal with.
Fast forward 6 years, she has become enormously successful. She confidently leads a global team and is the youngest Senior Director in the company’s history. After a couple of years, she found a compatible roommate and they have shared an apartment for 3 years. After the COVID 19 crisis is over, she will be moving to London to lead her team. She is a confident, empathetic, and kind person.
Sometimes we help the most when we don’t help at all.
Angela Rieck, a Caroline County native, received her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland and worked as a scientist at Bell Labs, and other high-tech companies in New Jersey before retiring as a corporate executive. Angela and her dogs divide their time between St Michaels and Key West Florida. Her daughter lives and works in New York City.