As anyone who knows me also knows, we’ve been raising nine adorable puppies for the last six weeks. In less than a week, we’ll take them to the Canine Companions for Independence headquarters in Santa Rosa and they’ll soon head off on the next part of their journey to learn how to be service dogs. It’s an amazing program, and I swear that we benefit as much as the autistic kids and wounded warriors and many others who end up with these guys. At least that’s how we felt when our CCI dog Bryar had puppies a few years ago. Besides getting to bond with them and kiss them and smell that wonderful puppy breath, of course, it reminds me of the wonder of people connecting over something worthwhile.
We’ve all been there, whether we realize it or not. It’s that feeling you have on the fourth or fifth game of your kid’s T-ball season when you’ve bonded with all of the other parents, cheered until you’re hoarse, and you notice your son is actually coming out of his shell. It’s humans at their best—joining together to do something good for someone else and having fun at the same time.
I watch people pitching in, taking collections of money and supplies—anything to extend a hand and to be humans together.
That’s exactly how I felt last Sunday, when at least 20 people, many with their kids, showed up in my front yard to hold puppies on their laps and help them get socialized. People with big-shot jobs, teenagers who normally have disdain for their parents, friends I hadn’t seen in months, people who work together under really stressful circumstances—they all washed their hands, held little, fat puppies and giggled together.
We spent the earlier part of the weekend with our new friend Emily, whom we also met in this round of Puppy World. She came all the way from Wisconsin with her mom to hang with these goof balls. We ate out, travelled to the wine country, and told our life stories, but through it all, we held big handfuls of blonde and black puppies who cracked us up with their antics. Emily even introduced us to a friend from their hometown who has recently moved to Sacramento. He, too, relished his time in the puppy pen, tickling little pink bellies.
This week, of course, as thick smoke still hangs over us in this valley, we all know someone who lost a home or a loved one in the Camp Fire. I watch people pitching in, taking collections of money and supplies—anything to extend a hand and to be humans together. The big and the little transcend the ridiculous when we think of the crazy stuff that often occupies our minds and our days. We don’t care so much about what that guy said at that meeting last week when we know how lucky we are to have a friend to help us when we’re in trouble—or a puppy to hold when we’re weary.
We are complicated creatures, we humans. Our lives are intense and scary, and we make mistakes that, at the time, seem impossible to bear. But then, a friend reaches out a hand and it softens everything. My best friend Mary has been by my side since I was 29 years old. Although I can barely remember being that young, I am regularly blessed by her generosity and love. These days, she comes to our house every day to feed lunch to the hungry gang of nine and their mom. She mixes their gruel, cleans out their pen, and sends us a text to say how well they ate and how cute they are.
The world seems grim sometimes and we feel alone and disconnected. It’s so good, in the midst of that, to get to engage about something tiny and cute and yet meaningful in such a huge way. It reminds me that we are all humans, and that we are also so, so good in our hearts. It brings us back to our true connection, and to the circle we all form, over and over again.