Who are the absolute champions of non-verbal communication? With a great genius for love and friendship? Dogs.
I'm thinking of 2 individuals in particular. First one a retriever who happens to live with his owner in my street, at the block I need to pass to reach mine. I met the two of them when were almost home as I happened to pass by, on my way home. The dog looked at me, inquiringly, invitingly and I couldn't resist. I went down on my knees, literally, and started patting and hugging this total stranger. Lucky for us, his owner, a friendly talkative woman, didn't mind. She didn't begrudge her dog his private life and own circle of friends. [ I prefer that kind of dog owners. ]
Now this was not so special.... what makes it special is that two weeks later, the three of us came home around the same time again. But this time the distance between us was larger. I still had a block to pass and a street to cross while the dog with its owner were at their front yard already. The dog looked over its shoulder before turning to its house... saw me... and sat down decidedly. He kept on looking at me, wagging his tail happily, determined not to be led to his house by the woman at the other side of his leash. I walked faster visibly, and the owner smiled, letting me know with a hand signal -non verbally!- that she'd wait. But it took way too long according to the retriever. He got up... started to cross the street pulling my neighbor after him. So strong was his impatience for getting a hug from me. Wow, to be appreciated like that!
The other dog... I ran into him or her yesterday, on a little walk through my favorite Dutch city: Haarlem. Walking from the station to the shopping street “Cronjé” you walk past a park. In it there were... yes a dog, not of any known pedigree, and close to him was his owner. The woman had to be, she was the only one in his vicinity and carried a plastic 'sling / stick' for picking up and throwing tennis balls without getting your hands dirty. The woman was holding a mobile phone to her ear while the dog carried the tennis ball in his mouth, waiting for the woman to finish her call. I admired his patience – he looked amused, not bored at all- and I winked at him. Immediately he turned to me, making a short movement with his head “Hey, wanna throw the ball for me?” I imitated his gesture “Sure. I just love throwing balls.”
The tail started wagging and two brown eyes peered helplessly over the ball, that was a bit too big for the mouth... the dog was looking for a way to reach me on the side walk. I halted and looked too.... at the tangled bush that separated us. The dog had already reached it and was now looking for a way through it. But there was no opening or thin patch to let him pass without getting stuck. And if I would work my way through to him... his owner would wonder what kind of person I was and no doubt call the dog to her and leave. The limits of being a decent human being...
So we stood there for a while with the shrub between us, looking at each other, negotiating, wishing, and finally we decided it wasn't meant to be. The dog walked back to his owner, still on the phone, and I slowly walked off. Whenever I looked over my shoulder, the dog still looked at me. Just before a row of large trees would cut him from my view I raised my hand... the dog gave me that same head gesture again, I'm sure it was his way of greeting.
I like thinking back of our encounter. I wonder if he does too.