Monday, October 20, 2008


Dell lunged at the leash, perpendicular to my frame, abruptly forcing me away from the subject matter of my camera lens.

Startled and annoyed, I was now face to face with a young boy, perhaps 8 or 9, I supposed, who was taunting my dog with pebbles, kicking up dust, and . . . barking at my dog. Dell was returning the challenge. Now kneeling on the dusty canyon floor, it was all I could do to contain my dogs' quivering frame.

"This afternoon I'll find the pass." I confidently informed myself as we set out on the second consecutive day of a hiking adventure. Taking the route by memory, I found myself driving in the opposite direction of yesterday's trek. Consternation was beginning to build, as, after an hour, I still had not recovered the elbow in the road running beneath the mountain that would lead me to a pristine nook that called my name, tucked away from civilization.

I finally decided to turn down a clearly marked canyon road - even though it would surely not take me to my destination. It was becoming more important to allow the dog and the baby a leg stretch than it was to discover my heart's content.

Winding down, down, down . . . my expectation rose and fell as I rounded yet another curve, only to find the highway ramp. Disappointed, I decided to head home.

But what is this? My eyes stared in unbelief. "How can it be? I"ve driven in the opposite direction!" Incredulously, I took the next exit which would lead me to the very same place I had been the night before.

The boy was not responding to me in the least. Rather, his efforts at challenging the canine were ramped up a notch as, just behind him, a second boy, obviously an older brother, joined in the fray. Neither boy responded to my corrective instruction. I was coming to a point of loss of what to do.

That is the moment when the small framed woman, overdressed in a black short-waisted jacket, a long black skirt, and big black sunglasses stepped into my line of sight. Curious she was, in her garb, but her face - what I could see of it - was pleasant. She made no move to physically restrain the boys, but she spoke in a gentle firmness to them that identified her as their mother. They continued in their behaviors. The small framed woman stepped between me, the dog, and them, completely blocking their attempts. This distraction was enough. Their bony frames went limp, and their attention was drawn elsewhere for a moment.

I apologized for my dog's behavior, explaining the unique circumstances. She nodded, and stood nearby as I offered the boys, now docile, a second chance to pet the dog. It had been what they wanted all along ~ to pet the dog. My suspicions were now verified: these two boys were special needs children.

Compassion was now coupled with curiosity.
To be continued . . .

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