Something special happened yesterday. It was a brief moment but it keeps replaying in my head.
Sung has gotten really (and I mean really) into fishing. I am not too much of an angler but I like to join him because it’s a great excuse to spend a few hours in nature. Yesterday we woke up at dawn, packed some bagel sandwiches, and drove out to the river near our house.
We’re still exploring different fishing spots along the river. Sung pulled into a parking lot which was new to us, and I realized it was a State Park once I saw a booth near the entrance. We would have to pay a fee to park there.
The employee greeted us from inside the booth. Before we could say a word, she spied Lotus through the rolled-down backseat window.
OK so the only reason the next moment was special is because of this fact: Lotus deeply distrusts strangers. Actually, even non-strangers. She shies away from everyone except Sung and me.
It’s been nearly a year since we adopted her from the shelter. At first she was too terrified to sleep or eat, but she came out of her shell as the trauma of her puppy life gradually faded. Although she’s blossomed into a pretty confident dog, she still gets timid whenever another human gives her attention.
Of course we love her regardless of her disposition. But it’s embarrassing when my parents try to pet her and she runs in the opposite direction. I’m like come on Lotus, we all lived under the same roof for a couple months! How are you not comfortable with them yet? (At least she gets along with their dog.)
And when we’re at the park with Lotus, friendly people sometimes ask to pet her. That’s never gone well. She cowers behind our legs and won’t be coaxed out. One time we made her sit still for this particularly nice dog owner. Lotus trembled in distress as the woman offered a treat. She gingerly accepted the small dog biscuit only to spit it out seconds later. That’s when Sung and I decided it was easier to avoid the drama and just tell people we have a shy dog.
So yesterday, when the park employee stepped out of the booth and reached her hand toward Lotus, the phrase, “oh she’s a really shy dog,” was already tumbling out of my mouth.
But for once, I didn’t need to say it.
The woman held out a treat. Lotus craned her neck out of the backseat window and took the treat from the woman’s palm, then licked her fingers.
“No way,” Sung said, “she’s never taken a treat from a stranger before.”
“She’s never even let a stranger come near her!” I emphasized.
The woman shrugged off our astonishment. She expressed no surprise that our dog would eat out of her hand. It was clear she had a gift, and she knew it.
“Aw, thank you for the kisses,” she said to Lotus while petting her behind the ears. Then she gave her attention to the humans in the vehicle.
“Since I was this tall,” she reached down and hovered her hand a couple feet above the ground, “I’ve had a special connection to animals. All animals.”
“I get it from my grandmother,” she continued. “Animals feel the connection and instinctively trust us.”
Once I heard the woman’s explanation, I was no longer baffled by how Lotus reacted to her. I’m just happy we got to witness their interaction.