Feel “Free” To Go Aww

, , , , , | Hopeless | September 17, 2019

(I train seeing-eye dogs and service animals for a living and have for the past ten years. The number of people who ignore a vest on a dog ceased to surprise me many years ago. On this day, I have three six-month-old golden retriever pups with me who are being trained as therapy companion animals — not seeing-eye dogs — so their training is a little different, and it’s not as strict as it is for dogs who need to be alert animals or guide dogs. I’ve taken them down to the dog park for socialising in their little vests that state they’re in training. When we get there, the dog park is mostly empty, save for a young couple in their 20s and their four- or five-year-old daughter. They’re throwing a ball for a chocolate lab puppy around the same age as my trio of loveable idiots, and mine are whining at me because they want to be “freed” to chase the ball. Sticking to their training, they’re sitting at my feet practically vibrating with excitement. The little girl tosses the ball and it rolls within three feet of my pups, who all amp up their whining. The other family’s dog seems to get spooked by mine, so it hangs back, and the little girl comes to retrieve the ball.)

Little Girl: “Oh! Mummy! Puppies!”

(I’m already impressed that she hasn’t barrelled forward to grab at the pups like most kids her age would do; even adults tend to think that because they’re small and cute they are up for grabs. While they all frantically wag their tails at the thought of a new friend, they stay seated. The little girl cocks her head to the side and starts sounding out the letters on their vests.)

Little Girl: “T… tr… tra… Train! Excuse me, are these train dogs?”

(Her parents have come over and we all giggle at her saying “train dogs.”)

Dad: “They say, ‘dog in training,’ sweetie. What does it mean when a doggy has a vest on with words on it?”

Little Girl: *sadly* “To leave them alone because they’re doing a job. I just wanted to look at them; they’re cute.”

(Her own puppy has sidled forward to sniff at mine, who are all ready to explode by this point but are still seated, waiting for the all-clear. The mum calls her dog back and holds his collar, apologising.)

Me: “That’s fantastic! You’re very clever. But guess what? These puppies are learning to be good friends to kids who need to feel safe and loved, so they can play. You ready guys? FREE!”

(The three balls of golden fluff EXPLODED from at my feet. They started running in circles, pawing at the other puppy, yipping excitedly, and licking the little girls’ shoes. Her face was something I’ll remember forever; a kid getting to play in a pile of puppies is something truly magical. She asked lots of questions about different kinds of helper dogs, and promised me she wouldn’t bother any dogs in vests unless their human said it was okay. Her parents thanked me, but I thanked them, as well, as learning to behave around kids is something very important to support dogs and we got in some great practice that day. That kiddo was so great for already knowing what a service animal was. I hope I can meet more like her in the future.)

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Fist Bump Away The Grump

, , , | Hopeless | August 29, 2019

As I was walking along the shop floor at work, I saw a bloke in a wheelchair being pushed along by someone else. All of a sudden, he offered a person nearby a fist bump.

His companion protested, saying no one wanted to fist bump him. As she said this, the other person, a complete stranger, returned the gesture. The bloke’s face lit right up.

He offered his fist up to the next person they passed, which was me. I couldn’t refuse, not when it would make him so happy.

As they turned down the next aisle I heard the companion say, “Okay, it’s a fist bump day,” so I’m guessing he kept going.

Thank you, random gentleman. It may have cheered you up, but your happiness was infectious and now I’m walking around with a smile, too.

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Grand Gesture To Get To Grand Rapids

, , , , | Hopeless | August 25, 2019

(I’m on a bus going back home from Columbus, Ohio to my small hometown in northern Michigan. Since it’s a small town, the bus stop is the lobby of a small motel. Just as I’m getting off, the passenger in front of me holds up his phone, and I can see that he is trying to communicate with me with a translator app.)

Passenger: *through the app* “How much longer until we get to Grand Rapids?”

(I overheard him speaking in Spanish earlier, and being fluent enough in the language, I explain:)

Me: *in Spanish* “You needed to transfer to another bus back in Flint, but don’t worry; I’ll help you.”

(I walk up to the driver, who has gotten off the bus for a smoke break.)

Me: “This man was headed to Grand Rapids but missed his transfer in Flint. Is there something you can do to help? Also, he doesn’t speak English so I’ll have to translate.”

(The driver agrees and gets on her phone, and then goes in to talk to the motel’s clerk. A few minutes later, she turns to me:)

Driver: “Okay, we’ve got him a room here for the night, and the next bus to Flint leaves here at noon tomorrow. He doesn’t have to buy another ticket.”

(I relayed this information to the passenger in Spanish, and he thanked me for his help. The next day, he texted me and let me know that he’d gotten on the bus. A little while later, he texted me because he wasn’t sure if he was headed in the right direction, but from his description, I could tell he was headed to Flint as intended. Later on, he informed me that he made it to Flint and got on the right bus to Grand Rapids. I had a lot of Spanish-speaking friends and classmates when I took high school Spanish, which I think was helpful in making the language stick. It’s good to see that all these years later, I’m still fluent enough to do a good deed with it!)

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Unlucky Number Seven

, , , | Hopeless | August 21, 2019

My wife and I are at Six Flags to celebrate her promotion at work. A new ride has recently opened so we decide to check it out. Lines are long — two and a half to three hours in the blazing sun — so we strike up a conversation with the people behind us to pass the time. They’re two college-age dudes. One guy is pretty average size, maybe six feet tall. The other guy is an absolute giant; he says he is 7’3” — over a foot taller than his friend! I’m a pretty big guy — 6’3, 250 pounds — but this guy makes me look like a freakin’ munchkin.

We get talking about the usual stuff: names, jobs, etc. They are both students at a college a few hours away. Turns out Tall Guy loves roller coasters. They drove for four hours to get here to celebrate finishing freshman year, super pumped about trying the new ride we’re in line for. 

Three hours later, we’re at the front of the line. We’re all clamoring with the seatbelts when the operator comes up and asks how tall Tall Guy is. He answers and the ride operator tells him he has to get off. Apparently, you have to be under seven feet tall to ride safely. Tall Guy is completely crushed. This guy drove four hours and waited three hours in the hot sun to be kicked off the ride for being too tall. 

They give him a coupon for a free drink, but d***, we can see how disappointed he is. I feel so bad for him, so my wife and I pay for him to get a “Fast Pass” — you can buy a ticket that basically lets you take an express line on all the rides — for the rest of the day. He really appreciates it but I still feel bad he didn’t get to go on the ride.

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Unable To Bear Christmas Without One

, , , , | Hopeless | August 19, 2019

(I take my young son to visit Santa. He tells Santa what he wants and then says:)

Son: “And please get my little sister a Bedtime Bubba Bear.”

Santa: “Of course! It is very nice of you to ask for something for your sister.”

(Santa is clearly touched. He winks at me and smiles at the tiny girl I am holding. But I am horrified! This is the “Tickle Me Elmo” of that year. EVERYONE wants that toy and all stores are sold out! The next few days are spent calling stores. No luck. I look in the paper and see several listed in the classified section. Some are outrageously priced. The silly things are expensive to begin with and everyone who has one wants to make a profit, of course. One person is selling two at not too much more than the store price. I call the number and arrange to pick up one of the bears. When I get there, they indeed have the prized bear. I’m a pretty strong woman. I’m tall. I work in a field that, at the time, is dominated by men. But I see that bear and just fall apart!)

Me: “Oh, my! Yes! Finally! I HAD to find one! My son asked Santa to bring this bear to his little sister. His sister is disabled and can’t ask for anything for herself. This may be the last year he believes in Santa. I couldn’t bear to disappoint him. He saw the commercial and said maybe this bear could help his sister learn to talk. Everything at home is about his sister. Therapies. Modifications. He wanted to be able to help, too. I couldn’t let such a kind thought not come to fruition. I just had to find this bear! Thank you!

(The poor lady just looks stunned, having been run over by my word-train.)

Lady: “Um. Oh. That’s really something.”

Me: “Oh, no! I forgot to get change. I only have 20s. I can go to the store and get change if you don’t have any.”

Lady: “No. No, I have change.”

Me: “Oh. Thank you. And, again, sorry for that.”

(I give her five 20s, take the bear, wrap it in my jacket — the kids are actually in the car — and take the change the woman puts in my hand. I thank her again and head out to the car. When I get home, I realize that instead of $15, this woman has given me $40 in change. I call her to let her know I’ll drop the money off on my way to work.)

Me: “Hi. I’m the crazy woman who bought the bear. I’m afraid you got the bills in your wallet shuffled. I got too much change. I’ll swing it by in the morning if that’s okay. I can slide it through your mail slot if that’s too early.”

Lady: “No. You got the right change. Your daughter needs that bear. Your son needs your daughter to have that bear.”

(She hung up. And I cried. My daughter is in her 20s now and has three toys from her youth: the bunny who accompanied her to the hospital for her surgeries, a bunny a sweet lady gave her in the hospital, and Bedtime Bubba.)

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