It’s great to reconnect with old friends

Gus & the animals

This morning, Gus and I stayed local for our walk.  As we made our way across the familiar fields behind the high school, I heard the distinct hum of machinery in the distance.  Sure enough, it was the giant lawn machine from the Town, doing maintenance work on the soccer fields.   As we came into view, I noticed that the driver actually turned his rig in our direction and began to move closer.  He then lifted his hand in a hearty wave.

I realized then that the driver was a man that we had met when Gus was much younger; probably two years ago.  At that time, we used to see him frequently on our jaunts through the fields.  He would often stop and chat with us, and he really loved Gus.  I’m not sure why our paths haven’t crossed much since then, but here he was again, after so much time.

He pulled up and climbed down from his seat.  He was really happy to see us, and he told me that he had thought that we might have moved, since he hadn’t seen us for quite some time.  Gus greeted him like a long lost friend, and went into full puppy mode; jumping and running around madly in circles.  He finally settled down and dropped his ball at the man’s feet.  Our friend picked it up and played fetch with Gus for a while, as I chatted with him.  After ten minutes or so, we said a warm goodbye, and we each went on our separate ways, with a promise to look out for each other in the months ahead.

There’s something about connecting with an old friend you haven’t seen for a while that just makes you feel good.  One of the positive things that I was able to draw from the tragedy of my father’s death was the chance to reconnect with many special people from my past, as they called or came to visit me.  Marriage, careers, life events, and even simple geography often cause us to drift away from people who were significant in our lives during earlier times.  It’s not that we stop wanting to be friends.  It just happens that our paths start to head in different directions, and before we know it, months and then years have passed since we’ve been in touch.

This might seem silly, but to me, an old friend is like a favourite sweater.  Slipping back into those friendships has made me feel wrapped in a familiar feeling of cozy warmth and comfort.  I’ve had the chance to laugh and remember times from high school and university and beyond, and I’ve got caught up on the recent events in the lives of my friends and their families.  Most importantly, many of my friends and I have made promises to each other that we will make the effort to stay in touch.  We have all agreed that it is well worth it.

I’m reminded of a rhyme that the mother of one of my earliest chilhood friends wrote in my autograph book when I was six or seven years old.  It read:   “Make new friends but keep the old.  The new are silver, but the old are gold”    Good advice!

It all evens out in the end

It’s kind of interesting, the way things work out.  On most days, Gus will bring a ball along as we head out for our walk.  He has quite a collection to choose from, and he will often deliberate for some time before selecting just the right one.  Off he will trot happily, with his ball in his mouth.

Throughout the course of our walk, Gus will stop and sniff here and there, and of course he will leave a little reminder of where he has been.  He usually drops his ball while he does this, but he is diligent about going back to pick it up before we move on.  However, there have been many days when we will be halfway across the field and I’ll suddenly realize that he no longer has his ball in his mouth.  I used to get stressed and circle back to find it, often taking 15 minutes or so to search for it in the field.  Then, one day I realized that Gus couldn’t seem to care less.  It was as if he had suddenly lost interest in that particular ball, and had happily abandoned it in the field.

So here’s the interesting part.  What I have found is that on those days, more often than not, we always seem to find a new ball in the field to compensate for the lost one.

Gus found a ball

It’s almost as if Gus knows that it’s no big deal to leave the old ball behind, because he is confident that a new one will be waiting somewhere ahead, along the way.  He is always thrilled with the new ball, even if it is rattier and more destroyed than the old abandoned one.

Gus happy with the ball he found

So what’s the point here?  It seems to me that Gus knows a bit about the laws of the universe.  In one of my chemistry lectures, I teach about a particular phenomenon in which the total amount of matter in the universe stays constant.  Under normal conditions, there are no atoms of anything created or destroyed;  they are just “recycled” into different configurations through a whole host of chemical reactions.  In other words, everything around us will always be there; it just might be found in a different place, or in a slightly different form.

Maybe Gus knows that a lost ball will be replaced with a found ball, in order to keep the state of the universe constant.  Perhaps that’s why he doesn’t seem to stress when his ball goes missing.  He understands that things will even out in the end.

I have to agree that this philosophy can make life a lot less stressful, and it can smooth out a lot of issues between people as well.  In all of our personal relationships, there is an ongoing saga of give and take.   This is ultimately how we care for one another, and how we show the people close to us that we are there for them when they need us.  Perhaps it’s as simple as who’s buying the coffee today.  Or maybe it’s more involved; as in running each other’s errands, or taking the time to sit and listen patiently while a dear friend pours out their troubles for a whole evening.

In the strongest relationships, there is no counting of pennies, and no running tally of who owes what to whom.  We just know that, over the course of our lives, we will each pick up the tab the same number of times, and we will be the one to lean on just as often as we will need the strong shoulders of those dear to us.  Running a tab takes the focus away from what true friendship is all about.  Of course there will be countless cups of coffee to pay for, and we each will cover our share over time.  With our close friends and family, we know that there are times when we need to sit back and accept assistance and support, and we can do so gratefully, confident that we will surely have the chance to return the kindness at some time down the road.  It’s what makes the universe work best.

You don’t have to be best friends with everyone

Gus and Fluffy at Uta's

Today Gus came with me for an outing to the hairdresser’s.  I love going to Uta’s because she’s local, she does a great job cutting my hair, she’s always full of fascinating information, and she’s a dog person, so I get to bring Gus along.  I always call first, to make sure there isn’t a client there who’s afraid of big dogs, and usually it’s not a problem.  It’s good for Gus to get out to see new and different places, and now that I’ve trained him to not eat the hair cuttings off the floor anymore, it’s all good!

Today when we arrived, Uta’s dog Fluffy was waiting at the door.  As any normal dog would do, Fluffy began to bark when Gus and I approached.  The two dogs greeted each other with all the usual sniffing, and I sat down to have my hair washed.  Now you can see from the photo above that Fluffy is significantly smaller than Gus.  According to Uta, he basically just isn’t that fond of large dogs.  I don’t know, maybe he views himself as the official greeter of the salon, and he resented the presence of this rather large slobbery dog who was busy saying hi to the other client in the room.  Whatever the reason, Fluffy wasn’t too impressed with Gus, and he let him know it by barking quite a lot.

After several stern comments and requests to be quiet, Fluffy was rather unceremoniously removed from the salon. He continued to bark from another room.  Uta and I then resorted to bribery.  We brought Fluffy back in and I gave the two dogs some tasty treats together – the hope was that Fluffy would think that the treat was from Gus, and change his point of view.  No such luck.  He just wasn’t impressed, and he wasn’t about to let this big dog hang out in his space without letting him know it.

Eventually, after deciding that he’d made his point, Fluffy finally calmed down, and the two dogs settled into a somewhat peaceful co-existence while Uta finished up my hair.  Before I left, we tried to get the two guys to sit nicely beside each other for a picture, and you can see the hilarious result above.  I think the uncomfortable expression on Gus’s face, and Fluffy’s “I’m ignoring you” look say it all.

Let’s face it, there are lots of dogs and lots of people in this world of ours.  Just because we throw two individuals together, we can’t expect that they will automatically become best friends simply because we think it’s a good idea.  I’m reminded of when my kids were little and I’d arrange “play dates” for them.  If I met another new mom and we’d really hit it off, we’d try and get our kids together as well.  Often this would turn out great, but sometimes it just didn’t work out.  I truly believe that there is a sort of chemistry that exists between certain people and between dogs as well.  It’s easy to see when a natural, comfortable friendship is developing, and it’s just as easy to tell when things simply don’t jive – like today.

The natural inclination is to feel embarrassed and awkward when people (or dogs) we think should hit it off just aren’t interested in each other.  But really, what’s the big deal?  We can’t take it personally if they just don’t have as much in common as we think they should.  As long as there are no hard feelings and everyone is amicable, it’s okay to have new acquaintances who don’t turn out to be lifelong friends.  I learned a long time ago not to meddle in my kids’ friendships.  They are excellent judges of who they relate best to, and they have all done fine choosing their own social circles without my help.

Likewise, I don’t get hung up worrying that all of my different friends are friends with each other as well.  I am lucky to have a diverse group of special people in my life, and they come from many different realms.  Each one is unique and dear to me, but I don’t usually bring them all together and expect them to hang out as a big social group.  They are just different people.

As for Gus and Fluffy; well, I do plan to bring Gus along again the next time I go for a haircut.  Maybe they’ll get along better in five weeks, or maybe they won’t.  I’ts all ok with me.