Having the evening breeze blow over you and make ripples in your glass of tea is a pretty nice way to end your day, which is why I love my porch. It’s a good vantage point to my own little slice of world, one that unfolds before me in the sort of high-definition that far eclipses my television.
My porch serves as a good object lesson, too. It’s proof that if you hold still and listen long enough, something pretty insightful will happen.
That didn’t seem to be the case last night. I was holding still well enough. That wasn’t the problem. And the problem really wasn’t the listening, either. I was doing that, too.
The problem was what I was hearing.
The dog was a mutt. Half beagle, half Australian shepherd, with maybe a little bit of border collie thrown in. Having all that muddled DNA inside you would surely cause more than a little confusion. Trust me when I say that dog was more than a little confused.
So was its owner, who at the moment seemed a little perplexed as to if he was walking the dog or the dog was walking him. He tripped and pulled and pushed. The dog ran and stopped and tangled the leash around its owner’s legs. It was a sight.
And over and over between the barks came pleas of despair and sorrow:
“Willsey, stop!” “Willsey, come!” “Willsey, hold still!” “Dang it, Willsey!”
It took a full five minutes for the two of them to get from the corner of my block to the front of my house. And even though I was enjoying the cool of the evening, the man was sweating as much as a boxer after a ten round fight.
Willsey stopped and sniffed at our mailbox post. Just before he was ready to do his business, I let out a small cough. The owner looked at me on the porch and gave the dog a quick jerk. He’d have to hold it for the next post down the road.
We smiled at each other and said hello.
“Wouldn’t want a dog, would you?” he asked me.
“Sorry,” I said. “Looks like he’d be a full time job.”
“Buddy,” he said, “you don’t know the half of it.”
I nodded toward the mutt hanging from the end of the leash. “Kind of a strange name for a dog. Willsey?”
He laughed and said, “Yeah well, happened by accident.”
He bent down, rubbed the dog on its head, and was rewarded by a face full of slobber. He snorted, the dog snorted, and I snorted.
“My little girl brought him home,” he said. “Just had to have a dog, and she worried me to death. You think this dog’s ugly now? You should have seem him when he was a pup. Looked like Satan himself had coughed him up. And she says, ‘Daddy, can we keep him?’”
“And what’d you say?” I asked.
“I said, ‘Well, we’ll see.”
“Which I’m guessing became Willsey.”
“Yep,” he said. “Seven years ago. Hated him at first. Still kinda do. But you know what? He’s growin’ on me.”
He patted the dog again and got another face full of slobber.
“I like it,” I told him. “The name and the story.”
The man laughed and then proceeded to drag/push/pull Willsey on down the road.
“Neighbor’s got a fresh coat of paint on the mailbox post,” I shouted to him.
“Oh, Willsey’s gonna love that,” I heard.
I smiled to myself and resumed my rocking. I didn’t know who to feel sorry for the most, the man who was stuck with the dog or the dog who was stuck with the man. Maybe both should have been pitied in equal measure. Then again, maybe they both deserved each other.
But I wondered about all those things I’d said “We’ll see” to in my life, all those things I thought would happen or wouldn’t and then didn’t or did. And then I wondered about all the other people who used that phrase every day. We never know what’s coming in this life. We can seldom see what challenges or blessings wait just around the next corner.
And we can seldom see the blessings in our challenges, too.