Boy and dog: a story of empathy

It was one of those spring tease days: temperatures in the 70s, a chorus of birdsong, and that moist gritty smell of thawed earth in the air. It would be weeks before warm days are less exception and more rule; we still need our coats, hats, and the gloves we’re really tired of wearing but are impressed we made it this far in the season without losing.

The dogs and I were outside reveling in the feel of the sun upon our bodies. It might even have seemed hot if you were wearing a fur coat, which I’m sure is why Lilah, Jasper, and Tucker sought the coolness of shadows.

My son joined us, freshly showered and wearing shorts, a sign of the beautiful weather. Looking at Jasper laying on the deck in the shade of the house, he said, “Poor Jasper. He wants his bed!”

In the warmer months, we keep a dog bed on the deck, one that is elevated to allow airflow underneath. The other dogs sometimes lay on it, but it’s obvious to everyone that it is Jasper’s bed. It’s a cool place. It’s a safe place. It’s Jasper’s place.

Once it gets cold and we don’t spend as much time outside, we send the bed into hibernation in our storage shed — digging it out again only when  it gets warm enough for us to use the deck comfortably: when we can sit outside without shivering or needing fourteen layers.

The weather hadn’t turned officially; we all knew these few sun-soaked days wouldn’t last. There were still colder days with freezing rain and biting wind and spring snow ahead. I hadn’t even begun to consider bringing out our deck chairs, umbrellas and other pleasant-day items.

Aaron watched Jasper resting in the shade of our house.

“Can I get Jasper’s bed out now?” My son looked at the dog, whose tail knocked twice against the deck at the word “bed.” Dog and boy looked at me.

Who could say no to that double whammy of canine and human hope?

Aaron dug the bed out from under tarps and behind the wheelbarrow, and set it up in it’s rightful place on our deck.  It took Jasper less than three seconds to realize his bed was back. The dog climbed up on it, thanked Aaron with a wag, and settled down with an oomph of happiness.

This might seem like a small moment between a dog and his 21-year-old boy. But here’s the thing: Aaron might not have noticed where Jasper was lying. He might not have thought through the absence of the dog’s bed. He might not have cared enough to act. But he did. Because he (and my other children, I’m proud to say) is that kind of person.

A few days later, when the weather was still warm enough, Aaron broke his finger while mountain unicycling. (That’s like mountain biking, but with a unicycle. Yes, it’s a thing, and yes he wears protective gear, and yes he’s rather good at it. But injuries are bound to happen.)

After our trip to the emergency center, my exhausted son sought the solace and comfort of his own bed. I stopped by his room, along with my canine posse. Aaron contemplated his splinted finger as we discussed next steps; we had learned it was a serious break that would require surgery by a hand specialist. There was a long road ahead, and not a fun path through the park.

Jasper leapt up next to Aaron. who hugged the dog. Jasper snuggled closer. Aaron smiled through the pain.

This story is not just about dogs and boys. The empathy shown by Aaron for Jasper and vice versa gives me hope for everything about this world. How awesome that we humans share this earth with other creatures who can see, then think, then act in a way that helps another soul.

Aaron just put the bed down, and Jasper is on his way.

Aaron just put the bed down, and Jasper is on his way.

Jasper steps up onto his bed.

Jasper steps up onto his bed.

A happy Jasper wags his thanks to Aaron.

A happy Jasper wags his thanks to Aaron.

Jasper and Aaron share a moment.

Jasper and Aaron share a moment.

Belly rubs are in order.

Belly rubs are in order. Lilah hopes she’s next.

A happy Jasper on his bed.

A happy Jasper on his bed.

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14 Comments on "Boy and dog: a story of empathy"

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  1. sandy says:

    What am amazing young man you’ve raised… I hope his surgery and recuperation go well and faster then expected. And sending a few virtual biscuits to Jasper and the gang for just being themselves.
    P.s. I didn’t know that there’s such a thing as mountain unicycling!

    • Thank you. Biscuits, treats and extra pets delivered! 😉 And very few people know that mountain unicycling is a thing. But Aaron loves to do it, and he tries to be smart (and safe) about it.

  2. I know you must be very proud of Aaron. I love seeing my kids interact with our dogs in a positive way. I hope Aaron’s surgery goes really well and he has a quick recovery.

  3. easy rider says:

    your son is a wonderful young man… and I that was the perfect post for puppy day… a story about love… well done!

  4. I am so sorry that your son’s injury requires surgery. Give him our best wishes. This is a sweet story and another example that pet people are the nicest type of people. ♥ ♥

  5. meowmeowmans says:

    What a lovely story of empathy and love. Thank you for making me smile!

    Prayers and good thoughts to your son — I hope that surgery goes well, and that he heals quickly and completely.

  6. What a lovely story about your son and dog. We hope Aaron’s surgery goes well.

  7. What a beautiful story to share. I love how much my dog gives to my kids, and what they have learned about giving and caring in return.

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