Yesterday morning I took my dog Dudley to Petco for grooming. Because we were a few minutes early, I decided to wander with the Dudmeister through the store and look at dog toys. Indoors when I wear my sunglasses on top of my head, I look like an extraterrestrial from a bad B movie in the 1950’s, so I decided this time to keep them in their position over my eyes as Dudley, still on his leash, continued walking ahead of me. Then I heard a young woman’s voice asking, “Excuse me, sir, but are you blind?”
Believing there was a blind man nearby, I tightened my hold slightly on the leash in anticipation of Dudley’s possible reaction to another dog in the vicinity. Then I was surprised, turning around, to see the woman who had posed the question, looking at Dudley and me. She and her male companion were both examining me in the most sympathetic way, as though I were a lost puppy or an injured toddler. Feeling my face turning red, I lowered my sunglasses to gaze over them at the couple, saying to them, “No, I am NOT blind,” which brought to the woman’s face a look of both relief and embarrassment.
“We wanted to pet your beautiful dog,” she said, “and it looked as if he was leading you. What breed is he?”
“He’s a West Highland White Terrier,” I answered. “The breed isn’t used as guide dogs. Those are usually German Shepherds or Labs.”
“Well he’s adorable,” She said. I was tempted to say, “Well, I guess he fooled YOU.” But I held back and responded instead with, “You’re welcome to pet him. He loves people.”
Then she and her companion knelt to greet Duds, who was enthusiastic over their attention.
“He’s a handsome dog,” said the man.
“He’ll be much handsomer after his grooming today,” I answered. “Right now he looks a bit like a dust mop without a stick.”
“Thank you,” said the woman, as she and the young man continued walking through the aisle of dog toys.
The experience gave me pause (paws?) to consider for the first time how I might appear in public with my slight limp from neuropathy in my right leg, my dog on his leash, seeming to be leading a man with gray hair wearing dark glasses indoors.
My perspective changed irretrievably, regarding my age, but I must remember also the dependable glint of humor from such experiences as they become more frequent with the years. I guess I’d much rather age while smiling than age through embarrassment and fear. JB