To the Woman at the Grocery Store

I raced from one place to another today, trying to get fourteen things done in a time slot that would fit only three. Not unusual, and it was relatively stress-free; nothing on the list was terribly pressing with the exception of finding the ingredients for dinner and making sure the puppies get a good run before the afternoon sun turns things into a premature winter’s night.

After finding the shallots, discovering that lettuce is on the “safe to eat” list again, and picking up things to pack in lunches (how could I have forgotten the cookies????), I stood and waited for Dylan to pack up some chicken for me. Dylan is slower than a frozen river, and I am convinced his schedule is made once his managers determine when I will be shopping. Need some brats or burgers? Dylan is there every time…testing my patience. He is very, very nice. I know because I chat with him for long periods of time while he painstakingly wraps my dinner and fumbles with the tape. He is actually quite interesting to talk to.

As Dylan weighed the chicken and carefully packaged it up, a woman with long, wavy gray hair left her cart across the aisle and strode over to me. She had purpose, and she had such a beautiful big smile. I have seen this woman shopping before. She shops without any assistance, though I am sure she struggles with some tasks you and I take for granted. I don’t think it is Downs Syndrome, though schools today would certainly place a label on her. I wish I had thought to ask her name.

“Have I given you one?” she asked me abruptly, and she leaned in to study my face, squinting her eyes and clearly making some decisions. She had a paper in her hand, and she started to hand it to me, then she snatched it away. “No!” she exclaimed, and hurried back to her cart where there was a stack of about 30 more papers. She filtered through them, evidently looking for just the right one.

She barreled back across the aisle with a new paper in her hands and held it in front of me. “Here!” she said, nodding for me to take the paper from her. “This is for you! Happy Holidays!”

And then she came around to the back of my cart and smiled again, pointing at the picture she’d drawn with stickers surrounding it. “This is for you,” she said again, this time not so loudly. “This is your dog angel.”  I looked down at the picture and stared. By the time I looked up, the woman was gone. Across the deli section, startling a mother with her teenager, smiling and handing her another picture she’d drawn. “Happy Holidays! This is for you…”

I looked back down at the picture and my throat swelled just a little bit. The picture was a little brown dog with a red halo over her head. My dog angel. Looking up, I spotted the woman over by the rice, handing a picture to a guy with a walker, who smiled and gave her a hug.

I lost the greatest dog in the world this past summer. A beautiful chocolate lab with eyes that peered into your soul. She was just an amazing animal, full of love and excitement, a fantastic trail runner and great kayaking partner. She and I did everything together. I was with her when she died, hugging her and telling her she was going to be okay, that even though she was dying, everything would be okay for her. I told her the pain she was in would stop soon, and then I saw the light go out of her eyes. She was a magical creature. Nothing short of it.

I hope I see this woman again at the grocery store. I have seen her before, so I am hopeful that the chance will present itself. When I do, I am going to follow her until she is finished shopping (not in a stalker way lol) and buy her groceries for her. What a gift she gave me today. I have hundreds of pictures of that dog, I look at them all the time. Now, thanks to this kind soul, I have a picture of my dog angel.

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