Maybe I've been watching a little too much of Anthony Bourdain's philosophy - not to mention buying in to his world view - but yesterday's adventure left a rather deep impression on me.
It all began with a sunny Sunday morning, the remnants of a beautiful weekend after six straight days of rain (and, according to the weather people, an additional four more in the near future). I get to church a little later than my usual time, not being able to resist the siren call of a warm bed and the snooze button.
I arrive to find a large tan and white boxer sitting at the front door. Everyone was still inside, attending the early morning English service, but there was an unfamiliar guy at the door, playing with the dog. I thought it was his dog. My church is pretty pet-friendly. One person sometimes brings her little Maltese. The guy I got Momiji from likes to bring his bunnies for my Sunday school kids to play with. And then there was that one time when I was in seventh grade and we found a deteriorating cat in the landscaping. My brother and some of his friends were the ones responsible for shoveling up the remains and disposing of it.
So I go to my classroom to get things set up. I walk back out to get some copies done a few minutes later. The dog was still there, although the guy was not - and every single person who was inside for service were entering out the sanctuary back door.
They were afraid of the dog.
I know all about the San Francisco dog bite deaths and such that happened some time ago. And it's always good to have a certain level of respect around all animals, including household pets. But since I saw this dog playing innocently earlier, I wasn't the least bit afraid.
With people hiding, peeking through the front windows and through a crack in the front door, they watched me go up to the boxer. I greeted him like any other dog I've every greeted, and he greeted me back like any other dog that I've ever met. He was friendly, wiggly, playful. He was probably still just a puppy, even though he was a good size. I fumbled with his collar, trying to look at the tag, but the dog thought it was a game of keep-away.
A couple of the braver souls stepped out to watch. One one of them manned up enough to help me read the tag as I distracted the little guy. It was a phone number for the local pet hospital. Which is closed on Sundays.
With no other clue as to where the dog came from and to whom he belonged, except that he had followed a family as they walked to church from a block away, I and two others led the dog out in search for his home.
We knocked on doors. Many didn't answer. Those who did answered the door like most people in my town answer doors - namely, cautiously and slightly anxious. No one knew where the dog came from. Some admitted that they didn't even know which house had a dog.
We finally found a house that seemed like it. It had a dish of skanky water and an empty pie tin with dry dog food crumbs in it. There was a chew bone tangled up in a Christmas garland. The dog promptly made a bee line for it when we approached the house and settled down for a good chew.
I assumed we had found it's home, but the inhabitants were even less trusting than anyone else we had talked to that day. There were three security system stickers on the windows. It was a pretty shady looking place - wouldn't look out of place from one of those houses where they find dead bodies on CSI.
I was rather nervous leaving the dog there. Who knew what kind of owner this was? But the dog seemed happy. He trotted around the yard, then meandered off to the next one. By this time, I had looked up the number for animal control, which was disconnected. Of course. We decided to leave the dog in the vicinity of it's supposed home, having done our best at helping it. He seemed happy to sniff around in the yards, so we said our good byes and walked back to church.
People are so afraid and nervous about things they don't know. Things that can potentially be dangerous, or a failed attempt, or bring discomfort in some way. Which is ok. The thing that disturbed me the most is how much people LET these things hinder them from walking out the front door where a large dog was hanging out, and choosing the "safer" back door. They were more willing to avoid it than to come face to face with it. And most disturbing of all, they were perfectly willing to leave it there, ignoring it, hoping it would go away and not bothering to find out if it needed help.
What if it was a human being instead of a dog? What if it was a Blind person who got disoriented? Would they have responded the same way? I hope not, but it makes me doubt.
There are so many things people are afraid of happening concerning education. There are so many things educators and policy makers turn their faces from, hoping for it to go away. Abandoning them for cleaner, safer things, like charter schools and the Great White Hope of technology in the classroom.
I, the dog, and my two door-knocking companions today had lots of fun this morning. I bonded with two people I didn't know very well, people from my own church, over a common mission of leading the dog home. The dog seemed happy to play with people who were willing to give him attention and exclamations of "good boy!" It was the type of adventure I'm spoiled with while overseas. Something new, something out of the mundane, something to be remembered fondly and replicated whenever possible.
I hope I remember to open that door in times when I most want to exit another way.