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I went out for lunch today with some guys from the office and as we walked by a park, an unused, grassy baseball diamond, I saw a woman and her black Lab standing there in the field. The woman appeared older, a little disheveled and she was standing in an awkward pose, right arm up but bent at an unnatural angle and her back was arched like she was about to throw something but somehow her body had gotten stuck in that pose. The dog beside her was also frozen, expectant, focused on her. This tableau held for a good five seconds and I saw in the woman's contorted profile much effort and uncertainty.

Then she jerked in a sideways motion and she did throw something and I saw a ball fly out of her hand and it hit the ground not more than ten feet away and I thought, now that's a terrible throw. The dog bounded after it and even though it was a short bound, its tongue was hanging out, its tail was doing helicopter wags. The dog picked up the ball and brought it back to its owner but instead of dropping it, the dog squeaked the thing.

The woman stood there for a moment. I was sure she was waiting for the dog to drop the ball, training it to release, but then she started reaching out for it. It looked like she was air grabbing at the ball like she was playing with the dog, teasing it a bit, like she was saying, I'm gonna getcha, I'm gonna getcha. The dog did not back away, though, as most would when playing this game.

The woman grabbed at the ball again, kept missing it and the dog would squeak the ball again but again she would miss it.

Strange game she was playing with her dog, I thought.

After a few more seconds, the dog squeaked the ball again and then dropped it on the grass. The woman stopped moving for a moment and then instead of just bending over to pick up the ball, she lowered herself to the ground until she was sitting down. Her dog happily danced around her. The woman felt around, searching for the ball. The ball was behind her. Didn't she know that? All she had to do was look behind her and she'd see it but she didn't turn around. She couldn't find the ball even though her hand would pass by it within inches.

Then I was close enough to her. Then I could see the tilt in the way she held her head. Then I could see she was blind.

Sometimes beauty descends upon us like a surprise, glittering sun shower, makes us gasp at its first touch. It comes out of nowhere while we're walking to lunch in the middle of a work day, on a busy, noisy, downtown street, while thinking about meetings and schedules and time allocations. Sometimes the sudden realization of what you are seeing, and reaching the meaning of what you are seeing, takes your breath away.

Now this part may just be my own wishful thinking but as I passed the woman and her dog, I noticed there were other people in the park watching the two of them as well. I wanted to believe they weren't just watching her, that they were looking out for her, ensuring her well-being and her dog's well-being. The blind woman playing fetch with her dog seemed such a fragile thing which could be so easily disrupted, a hundred things which could go wrong. It didn't appear to me like any of the other onlookers knew her but it seemed like they were all guardian angels.

The woman was still trying to find the ball on the grass and after a couple more near misses, her dog picked it up and squeaked it and dropped it again. This time the woman reached out along the grass and found the ball immediately. She stood up slowly, like someone trying to stand in a floating canoe, her dog very excited now.

The woman went into her throw pose, held it for a few seconds, readying herself, then threw the ball and from that excellent throw, the ball landed not more than ten feet away.

You know there are days when I think life is testing me. The big plan is found wanting and thrown out, too many secrets have spoiled the story, there is not enough time for love. But I am being preposterous, preposterous to think life would take a moment to single me out and I don't really believe that anyway. If life tests any of us, it tests all of us. It certainly doesn't test me any more than it tests a blind woman who wants to play fetch with her dog, throwing up a mountain of challenges in front of her just because she wants to partake in an activity most take for granted. I may suffer my minor woes but nothing here is new. Nothing here is exceptional. It's the same old story and what can any of us do but choose a path and walk to the end.

The woman must have faith her dog will return with the ball. She trusts her companion to be loyal, smart and patient, understanding and I suppose that is the most any of us can hope for.

Tonight the Harvest Moon shines down and through the clouds there is a faint light cast upon all doubtful seekers, all cynical believers.

10 Comments to “Pitch”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Wonderful blog entry! Such a great story to read about the companionship between a human and their dog :)

  2. Kit Lang says:

    so, so beautiful - thank you for sharing, and I'll be sharing this on FB too.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Fred: A most illuminating portrait you drew here. You have the eyes, heart and spirit we all crave to have. This Dear Fred is what real living is all about too. It made my heart soar!

  4. I am very touched by this story. As the very proud owner of one of your dogs - he has sinced passed away but I feel his presence all the time. This story has really hit me because I started losing my eyesight when we were together and he tuned right in to my problem. After two emergency eye surgeries we were reunited. He was approximately 7 years old when he came in to my life and we had to get to know one another -- it certainly didn't take very long. My thanks to everyone involved in bringing my shelter dog and I together -- his love and intuition will never be forgotten. Thank you TAS and everyone involved and I ask the public to see the SHELTER dogs. You will find one who wants to adopt you. I have to stop here because the tears have started for all the great animals just waiting to love someone. Thank you again. Merci.

  5. Maggi Burtt says:

    As usual, Fred, your words have touched me greatly. Not only is this a wonderful story of the type of communication and trust that is possible with our fourlegged friends..but really, your writing style and tone are wonderful treats to my art starved mind.

  6. Unknown says:

    You are a wonderful writer. I was really moved by this post and I always look forward to reading more.

  7. "Sometimes beauty descends upon us like a surprise, glittering sun shower, makes us gasp at its first touch." A sentence I would give my right arm (I'm left-handed, fortunately) to have written. About this moment. About a street child in Dhaka washing her feet in a puddle. About the way the Olympic mountains float on clouds early in the morning. About a pigeon protecting her chicks from the rain.

    About anything, really. So much beauty in the world is made up of these small, fleeting moments, and we are too busy to see them.

    Maybe it's the photographer's eye that is always *looking* that enabled you to catch this small moment of transcendence....

  8. GoodDog says:

    You made me cry AGAIN Fred. At least I wasn't at work this time. :)

  9. Balm for the soul. Thank you!

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A request

The reason for this blog is to help get specific dogs adopted from TAS but equally important is to try to normalize the idea of shelter dogs being just as good and just as desirable as any other dogs including those which are regularly merchandised by backyard breeders, puppy millers and those few remaining pet store owners who still feel a need to sell live animals. The single greatest stigma shelter animals still face is the belief that shelter animals are substandard animals. Anyone who has had enough experience with shelter animals knows this is untrue but the general public hasn't had the same experiences you've had. They see a nice dog photo in a glossy magazine and too many of them would never think of associating that dog with a dog from a shelter. After all, no one abandons perfectly good dogs, right? Unfortunately, as we all know, perfectly good dogs are abandoned all the time.

The public still too often associates shelter dogs with images of beat up, sick, dirty, severely traumatized animals and while we definitely sometimes see victims such as these, they are certainly not the majority and, regardless, even the most abused animals can very often be saved and made whole again.

Pound Dogs sometimes discusses the sad histories some of the dogs have suffered. For the most part, though, it tries to present the dogs not as victims but as great potential family members. The goal is to raise the profiles of animals in adoption centers so that a potential pet owner sees them as the best choice, not just as the charity choice.

So, here's the favour I'm asking. Whenever you see a dog picture on these pages you think is decent enough, I'd like you to consider sharing it on Facebook or any other social media sites you're using (I know many of you do this already and thank you for that). And when you share it, please mention that the dog in the photo is a shelter dog like so many other shelter dogs waiting for a home. If we can get even five percent of the pet buying public to see shelter dogs differently, to see how beautiful they are and how wonderful they are, and to consider shelter dogs as their first choice for a new family member, we can end the suffering of homeless pets in this country.