It began with a dog, a Chow Chow, to be specific.
Back when I lived on SE Clinton Street, years ago, I noticed a neighbor who was often out walking a Chow, or, to be honest, I noticed the beautiful Chows who happened to be walking with a person, not always the same Chow, but always a Chow. I think they’re beautiful animals.
Though I’ve never lived with one, I feel an affinity for Chows because they remind me of Shublik, the Samoyed who was our family dog in my early life. The Chow’s build and gait looks similar to a Samoyed’s, though their coloring is different. Here’s Shublik:
One day as I came down the stairs from my Clinton Street apartment, I greeted a Chow and its person. The encounter went like this:
Me: Hi there! What a beautiful dog.
Person: Hi. [Stops walking. Long pause.] Are you a nurse?
Me: No. I’m an Alexander Technique teacher. Why do you ask?
Person: Usually when people see this dog they get upset or kind of grossed out, so I thought maybe you were a nurse.
Me: OK. Why do you think people react that way?
Person: Well, she [the dog] has cherry eye, so most people are pretty alarmed when they see her. No one’s ever been as calm as you when they meet her.
In fact, both of the dog’s eyes looked much worse than what I’ve since found on the internet when I researched cherry eye in canines. Her poor eyes looked exactly like two maraschino cherries – protruding, no iris or pupil visible, solid bright red, moist-looking tissue. Side note: If the gland of the “third eyelid,” or nicitating membrane that dogs and cats have is prolapsed or otherwise exposed, it’s susceptible to trauma and infection. I only learned this later, when I looked it up.
At the time, I wondered how anyone could be upset by something as inoffensive as eyes that look different than other eyes, even if it was a pretty dramatic difference, and I also wondered if there was actually something different about me and my response (or non-response) to the dog’s appearance, and why that might have been.
The dog’s Person and I had a lovely, though brief, chat about the Chow’s history (she was abandoned on a small island in the Columbia River, and by the time rescuers found her, her eyes had been severely damaged. The Person operated a Chow rescue, which explained why I saw him walking different dogs from month to month, but always Chows.)
I never learned my human neighbor’s name, and I didn’t get to see that particular dog again, though I hoped I would.
It was the first time someone mistook me for a medical provider, and I recall feeling very honored. When I think in an abstract way now about the possibility of a career in medicine, this encounter stands out to me. I was apparently able to see two beings for who and what they were, without judgment, and with their best outcomes in mind. I hope that in the future I can do more.
© 2018, Paige McKinney