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Dogs and Serviceberries

July 14, 2021

    I was waiting outside my building entrance yesterday for someone to arrive. A man was approaching on the sidewalk, walking his Airedale. Being a dog lover, I recognize when a dog wants to say, “Hi!” So I whispered to the dog, “Hi there.” The man paused long enough for me to ask, “May I say hi to your dog?” He said yes and let the leash out. I bent down to pet his dog. 

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So happy was the dog that he wanted to jump on me. And so big was he that he could have reached my shoulders had I not blocked him. Of course, the man said, “Stay down.” Without any thought, I said, “Not to worry, I’ll help him stay down.” I later realized that I had worked my left thumb under his collar to make sure his feet stayed on the ground.

What delighted me was this less-than-a-minute exchange resulted in the man thanking me, and he meant it. I said, “Oh, thank you for giving me my dog fix for the day.”

Serviceberry bushes are everywhere these days but often unacknowledged until they become an obstacle. The serviceberry bush or tree is the first to blossom in the spring, offers shade when it’s hot, grows wood hard enough to use, say for an arrow, and bestows us with medicinal benefits, had we not placed our focus on synthetic pharmaceuticals. While not the first pick of the berries, their berries are edible and can carry humans, animals, and birds through autumn and into winter. Their fall foliage offers colors that seem otherworldly.

Dogs are everywhere these days but often unacknowledged until they become an obstacle. Dogs, and in particular puppies, are the first to celebrate and become excitable in the spring. A dog offers companionship when we’re alone, growls just enough to be protective, often sensing what we can’t, and bestows us with medicinal benefits when we are sensitive enough to feel the release of oxytocin or activation of the calming branch of the vagal nerve. All this happens whether we let them lick our face or just hang with them. While walking your dog may not the first choice in having fun, the routine of walking has lasting health benefits. And picking up after them reminds us to care for our environment with consideration for others. Their brown-eyed looks offer moments of connection that seem otherworldly.

If you have a dog, you are fortunate. Perhaps you can feel that now. I used to have serviceberry bushes and dogs. And I felt blessed in what I had before they left or I left them.