I go for a walk in a neighborhood near mine
Better than pacing the parking lot of my apartment complex
I turn left where it says “No Outlet”
Before finishing the last leg to get back to my car.
From behind a van lunges a dog, barking.
Collar, no leash.
I turn to walk away, and the dog follows, barking again.
I stand, unsure of what to do, how to make it home.
Searching the yard in vain for an owner that doesn’t exist.
Suddenly, I hear a voice from the other side of the cul-de-scac.
“Come to me.”
I turn. “Slowly” the voice comes again.
A man, stepping into the street, hand extended.
I walk, eyes on the dog, towards this stranger, this angel, who has left his own yard to meet me halfway.
“Dog no is mine,” he keeps repeating.
I’m not sure if he is telling me he’d train his dog better,
Or just wants to avoid responsibility for his neighbor’s error.
All I know is he doesn’t have to be helping me,
a stranger who is white and woman-seeming.
I reassure him that I understand, and am grateful for the assistance.
Once the dog and I are close, he says, “Reach out your hand, like this,”
And extends his hand palm out for the dog to lick.
I do the same, paying my toll, and the dog lets me go.
As I turn to walk away, the man calls the dog back to him once again.
“Thank you!” I call, and finish my walk in peace, wiping off the wetness from my fingertips.
Grateful that at least I was wearing a mask,
And thinking how this unexpected moment of connection comes less and less often in the pandemic.
Thinking about all the ways humans help each other co-regulate
when we are face-to-face.
Relieved and grateful that I have nothing more to fear than dogs when walking down the street.
Thinking about all the times we might have the instinct to run, or freeze, or fight back
When what we really need is to take a breath, move slowly and intentionally,
and extend our hands.