Sunday, July 19, 2009

Thanks You Letters to Strangers

The Lady with the Black Dog

The crosswalk of North Ave. and Wood St., Saturday morning, Wicker Park, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. Your back was turned to me while you were talking on the phone. Your dog, a big black lab mix, held his nose up, smelling the scents coming from the Gallery Cafe. I had just exited the cafe having treated myself to a delicious egg, turkey sausage, tomato and swiss sandwich on hearty multigrain bread. You were talking in a slightly raised voice, one hand on your hip, in a fist, and the other holding onto the leash. A few moments passed as we waited for the light to turn.

I cannot help but listen to the increasing distress in your voice. You realize that I'm standing there, and try to walk the other way with your dog but he is not moving. You pull at him, and he just sits there. I glance down and see he's looking up at me. The overwhelming frustration of the two actions causes your eyes to water up and your checks to go flush with blood. It reminds me of someone.

Without saying a word you hand me the dogs leash and walk the other way. Each step the sobs get a little more pronounced. The dog turns his big head from me to his owner and then back to me. Looking down at the beast I see that his nose is graying and his teeth are slowly falling out. I kneel down, placing my right hand on his head, rubbing his lower ear with my thumb. His eyes slowly close as his panting increases and his tongue falls to one side. His smile is infectious.

The morning sun is falling down on us. The streets are waking up as pedestrians begin to make there way to and from shops, cafe's, etc. The neighborhood reminds me of Portland. Small streets. A couple passes the dog and me, looking at how happy the two of us are. She whisper to him, 'I want one' and without looking at her he says with authority 'No.' which causes her to look back at us with a longing.

It's been about ten minutes and the owner eventually returns. Her conversation is over though it is apparent that the words exchanged by the two parties are weighing heavily on her. I stand, and hand her the leash. She politely thanks me and turns to walk the other way, pulling at the dog. The dog stands, and follows her. I turn and walk towards Ashland to catch my bus home. Neither of us look back.

Thank you for letting me have that moment with your dog. I hope everything is fine.


  1. Oh my good heavens, Kellen. This is just beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing it, & for being the You that allowed it to happen. Truly.