Missed the Mark

Pets in stores.  Does it seem like more people are bringing their pets into stores and restaurants lately, or is it just me that has noticed an increase in this type of behavior?

Every time I see someone in a grocery store or restaurant with a pet, I find myself wondering, “Can’t they leave their pet in the car or at home for 30 minutes?!  What’s wrong with them that they think they’ re entitled to bring their pet anywhere they want, regardless of health laws or common societal courtesies?!”  I guess it’s just a pet peeve of mind.  (Please excuse the pun.)

During the recent Labor Day weekend, my wife and I were at Wallowa Lake in Joseph Oregon, where we rode the tram to the top of Mt. Howard and did some hiking.  The views were breathtaking!

WallowaLakeTram

As we were standing in line to ride the tram back down, I saw a lady ahead of us in line that had her small dog in her coat.  There was clear signage stating that pets were not allowed on the tram.  As I noticed her I could hear myself thinking, “C’mon lady!  Do you really have to bring your dog up here?  You couldn’t be apart from Fido for a couple of hours?  Really?!”

Every time I saw her and her dog I had similar thoughts.  The primary thought being, “What’s wrong with people these days?”  Unbeknownst to me, I was about to find out.

Each tram car hold 4 people, and since there were a lot of folks in line, the tram staff was doing their best to make sure each car was as full as possible.  Since it was just my wife and I in our group, I was sure we’d get paired up with another group for the ride down, which is great with me, because I like talking to people.

Upon approaching the front of the line, the tram attendant said to us, “You’ll be riding down with this person” as he motioned to… (you already know who)… the lady and her dog!  “OH GREAT!!”  I can’t say I was thrilled, but what do you do, fake a dog allergy?  So the 4 of us got in and began the 10 minute ride down the mountain.

Once in the tram, the lady opens her coat and lets the dog out.  I immediately notice the dog is wearing a doggie jacket that says, “Emotional Support Animal.”  Huh.  So this wasn’t just some regular pet.

A few second into the ride, I strike up a conversation with the lady and find out she grew up in the area and was back visiting her father.  As the 4 of us were riding along, we talked about where she currently worked, the area we were visiting, and what it was like growing up there.  It was a great conversation and I was actually glad we were sharing the ride together.

About half way down the mountain, the lady shared with us that on September 5th, 2014 (1 year and 1 day prior to our collective tram ride) that the state police had showed up at her work to inform her that her husband had been killed in a traffic accident.  She had come home for the Labor Day weekend to visit her dad during the 1 year anniversary of her husband’s death.

Holy crap!!  I wasn’t expecting that.  In a split second I realized that this wasn’t a person who felt entitled to take her dog anywhere she pleased, but rather a grieving, hurting human being.

I felt like a jerk for the previous judgements I had made about her without even knowing her story.

As the ride progressed, I asked how she was doing and how the previous year had been for her, but mostly, I just listened to her story.

After we got to the end of the ride and said our farewells, I thought about how quickly I had sized up this lady with her dog and come to a snap judgement based on the little information I had.  I was amazed, and ashamed, at how far off my judgement had been.

I still don’t think that people should bring their non-service-animal pets into grocery stores and restaurants.  However, my recent interaction on the tram caused me to think about how quick I am to judge others when I don’t even know their story.  Moving forward, I’m working to adjust my thinking toward others to be less judgmental and more inquisitive.  Instead of simply making snap judgements, I’m trying to also ask myself, “What might they be dealing with?  Is there a grief or burden they might be carrying?  Could they use a kind word or some encouragement from me instead of judgement?”

I believe that there are occasions for snap judgements, but I’m also reminded that there are far more occasions where compassion and understanding is the better approach.  If the situation with the lady and her dog had been reversed, and it was me that had lost a spouse, I know I would have appreciated compassion and understanding far more than judgement.

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