Friday, April 9, 2010

What if I were loyal?

I had a sublime experience last night that carried into my morning so powerfully as to eclipse any other possible flair for the day.

I entertained a woman who owned a service dog. This black lab sat all night at our feet, waiting to take action in case my new friend had a seizure. The dog can predict up to two minutes in advance if the woman will have a seizure, and then he alerts her by tapping his nose on her thigh. Then the dog leads her to a safe location, helps her to the ground, secures a perimeter, and then stretches out on the ground beneath her head until the seizure ends. It gets better. The dog can also go get help by opening doors, retrieving cell phones, and even finding a dominant presence (usually an alpha male) in a room who can call 911.

I looked at that dog lying peacefully at our feet. No way.

Guess how he knows. Smell alone. The dog senses slight variations in the way my friend smells. Before a seizure, a chemical emits from glands on her neck that the dog perceives.

What? I looked again at the dog. I had to know more.

Apparently, the dog is just like other dogs: he plays, he runs, he eats, he poops. But at all times, he's tuned in to my friend. He senses any variation and takes immediate action.

I felt overcome by awe. I also felt something that surprised me.

As the woman talked about the dog sleeping close beside her, waiting with eagerness for her to emerge from a shower, or just noticing the slightest change in her smell, I considered how thankful I've been for people who "tune in" to variations in my moods, my health, or my well-being. I remember difficult times in my life when friends sensed a variation in me, led me to a safe place, tried to make me comfortable, and called for help if I needed it. Am I that loyal to my family, my neighbors, my coworkers and students that I can sense a variation, offer help, secure a perimeter, and provide comfort? What does that look like for me to "tune in" to people in my life?

When I'm not myself, I've had a friend say, "You don't seem right. Can I help?" Am I close enough--tuned in enough--to people in my life that I can observe these things? I want to be.

Living with flair means tuning in to others, providing help and comfort, and getting help for them if I need to. Living with flair means I notice subtle changes in others that might indicate something deeper. I want to be the one who secures a safe spot. Maybe one of my friends needs to rest on me until an episode passes. It's flair to be that loyal. It's not just for the dogs.


Christy said...

Beautiful post, Heather. I agree I want to be that tuned in with those I care about, rather than tune them out to get what I want done (can you tell I have been home kids all week with long to do lists). --Christy

Burkesmouthpiece said...

I find myself often wondering what would the lives of the people around me be like if I was as loyal as my service dog...

I'm not sure I have it in me to be that good. There may just be something about dogs - or Burke particularly - that God made special.

But wouldn't it be neat if we all spent, say, just a week trying to emulate Burke's good qualities?