On New Year’s Day, my grandmother’s 14-year-old dog, Toby, decided to ring in 2021 by going on an adventure. Toby isn’t known for running off in his old age and he’s not particularly fond of walks. But by the time he was finally located, he had ventured more than two miles from home and was lodged for the night at the county’s animal shelter. His foray included a visit at a house with another elderly dog, making dog friends while Norman’s owners placed a call with the sheriff’s animal control department.
Upon being claimed from the shelter, Toby appeared no worse for the wear, and if my interpretations of his tail wags are correct, his escape has reinvigorated him. He’s now tolerating my pup, Winston, when we come for a visit. In the past, Toby had little patience for our black mop of a dog and his frenzy of giant puppy energy. He seems to have shed his brittle old dog exterior and I’m not certain if he understood our human calendar and the hope that a new year can bring, but it seems like he’s resolved to be open to new experiences.
Although we once assumed Toby could be left to his own sluggish devices, not worrying that he could ever dare leave my grandmother’s side, he’s now proven that old dogs can adopt new tricks.
It was the kindness of strangers who took Toby in, who made the right phone calls to make sure Toby made it back home. In a time when kindness seems all too strange, I’m grateful that our community still has its cohesion to care for lost dogs or, as this past week proved, helped me locate the missing pieces to our metal chimney ripped from the roof during the wind storm. While we can’t turn a blind eye to violence and the attempted destruction of democracy in our nation’s capital, I find it helpful to locate those random and not-so-random acts of kindness that take place each day. Those fringe, extremist groups have a loud voice that often our quieter, peaceful acts are often drowned out.
It may feel like 2021 is off to a dubious start, yet in the moments when I worry that all measures of kindness and civility are hanging by a thread, I look at Toby with his white muzzle and see the lively spirit with each tail wag, knowing that he was cared for by many strangers on his journey back home.
If old dogs still hold out hope, then I can too.
Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.
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