It was actually kind of hilarious and embarrassing at the same time. This morning we were out at the park with our neighbour Mary Lou and her dog Jake. As we strolled up the path, we noticed two women approaching. I told Mary Lou that these were two of Gus’s good friends. We have seen these two ladies out walking together on many mornings over the last few years. In fact, they have known Gus since he was a puppy. As they approached, Gus and Jake gave them great big hellos, and we all exchanged greetings as well.
As usual, they stopped walking to visit with us for a bit. I know that one of them has an aging dog named Sparky, who hasn’t been well. I asked how he was doing, and was filled in on the latest details. We ended up chatting for quite some time, and the conversation somehow rolled around to funny stories about small animals getting in houses. We had a good laugh as we shared squirrel and mouse capers.
It was only near the end of our conversation that we somehow started to address the issue of names. We all came to the realization that, while we knew the names of all the dogs, we did not really know each other’s names. They knew me as “Gus’s mom” and I knew about Sparky, but I did not know the name of his mom, who I have chatted with for years. Ironically, I knew that one of them was Carol, and we all burst out laughing as we realized that she was the only one without a dog. “That’s why you know my name – it’s because I don’t have a dog!” she exclaimed.
So what does this say about us? There are so many dogs we have met on our daily adventures. I remember all their names, and I’ve written about many of them. Very often, though, I never learn the names of their owners, or if I do, I don’t always seem to remember them.
I stopped to think about it, and I realized that there are a lot of people that I only know as “Charlie’s mom” or “Rocky’s dad.” Is it possible that I’m so focused on the dogs that the humans become less important? I don’t really think so. because I often get into deep conversations with other dog owners, and we sometimes chat for over an hour. I think that what happens is that, after we exchange names, I get distracted and fail to really commit that name to memory.
I have learned that, when I meet someone new, if I consciously associate their face with their name for a few seconds, then it seems to be embedded permanently in my brain. If I fail to do this immediately, then it’s just simply gone. It’s as if I have to tell myself, “this is important; file it for later.” When I’m caught like today, and I realize that I haven’t really registered someone’s name, I feel as if I haven’t marked that person as important, even if that’s not truly the case.
Addressing someone by their name tells that person “you matter to me.” I’m making a commitment to do a better job of learning and remembering the names of all the wonderful people I meet in my travels; whether they have dogs or not. It’s not that big of a deal; I just have to make a mental note to register those names as I learn them. I’m sure my efforts will be appreciated.
Oh, and by the way, Sparky’s mom’s name is Robyn!
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