The Guy in the Cap & the Dog Who Saved Me

“Can I sit here?” I asked the 40’s-ish guy in the baseball cap, eager to nab the first empty plane seat I could find.

“Sure . . . if you don’t mind sharing the space with a dog!”

I wept repeatedly the day I heard I’d lost my grandfather a couple weeks ago. Besides missing his presence, I was reeling from all the losses I’d experienced in the past 3 years: first my mother, then her mother, then both my father’s parents. When my mother passed, it’d felt like I’d entered some bizarre upside down world where my mother no longer existed. After losing the last of my grandparents, I now feel like a layer of my life had been stripped away that I can never return to. Did it help living miles away from it all? Maybe. But in moments like these — sitting here in the bunkhouse of my RV, listening to meditative music and waiting for my husband Brian to come home from work —  it feels pretty hard. 

I dreaded the wake and funeral.  I was already in a funk as Brian drove me to the airport.  Partially hidden by my cap and mask, rogue tears were already slipping out from my eyes as I walked down the ramp to board the plane. Would I be able to hold it together?  Or would I sink into a bawling, soppy mess amidst a couple hundred strangers? What could I do tens of thousands of feet in the air with no escape?

Then I met the guy in the baseball cap, who I’ll call “Joe” because he reminded me of my neighbor Joe who used to look out for me and Brian in the townhome we lived in before we lived full-time in our rv.  I also met Miller — I think his name was “Miller”? — a black lab and Joe’s service dog, who I hadn’t even noticed lying on the carpet, sitting quietly beneath the middle seat in the first row of the plane.  Now that I’d already asked, I decided to roll with it. 

As the plane took off, I tilted my head back and tears slowly trickled down my face. Though my face was covered, I was sure my eyes were red, and I was barely holding it together.  But I could feel Miller’s legs pressed against mine.  Every so often he would shift positions, even briefly resting his head on my feet. 

“Joe” kept checking with me: “Is that ok?” “Are you ok with that?”  “I don’t know why, but he seems to love feet.”  

I could have told Joe that it was probably exactly what I needed right now, that I could feel Miller’s soothing energy, and I was actually really grateful for the comforting he was proving me right now — but instead I kept assuring him it was fine and said:  “My dog does the same thing!”

I appreciated the softness of Joe’s heart, as he checked in with me, told me a little about Miller, chatted with the flight attendants, and even helped a few passengers with their bags.  

I realized I couldn’t let him go without saying anything at all, so as he exited the plane to make his connecting flight,, I hurried to reach within earshot and called out to him: “I hope you have a good rest of your trip!”

He turned briefly with a smile and said: “Thank you! It was nice to sit with you.” 

So, he must have known, I thought.  He knew something special had happened here. Thank you, Joe.  Thank you, Miller.  And thank you angels, for saving that seat just for me.

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