Of Dogs and Turtles

Kindness can be given back in the simplest of manners.

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Our dog Bosco and I chilling on the 4th of July.

A few days ago my mother sent me the link to an article about two young men traveling the country in an effort to promote random acts of kindness. These include anything from buying people ice cream to paying for their laundry at a laundromat.

I love hearing stories like this, because I know how it feels to be on the receiving end of a random act of kindness.

I went through a stressful period at the beginning of my freshman year of college. I was trying to find a balance between my classes and all the activities I had going on outside of school. As a dedicated student, the stress of trying to give everything my best was beginning to wear on me. On my way home one night, I stopped at a gas station to fill up my tank. When I went inside to pay, the girl at the checkout informed me that the man in front of me had already paid for my gas. I got into my car and cried. It was such a generous and thoughtful gesture, especially since the man was there with what appeared to be a van filled with his family.

Over the past week, I have encountered myself in two interesting situations involving animals in need of help. I wouldn’t necessarily call these random acts of kindness, but rather circumstantial acts, more-so.

Several years back on our way to the lakes, my mom and I passed by a turtle in the middle of the road. We turned around to grab him and put the poor little guy in the ditch, only to watch him get squished by another car, right before our eyes.

Ever since then I have had a turtle paranoia. I hate seeing animals dead on the roadsides, so I find myself constantly scanning for turtles on our way to the lakes.

Last weekend on our way down for the 4th of July, my mom spotted a turtle in the middle of a busy highway. We pulled over and whipped the car around, only to discover that this was no little turtle – this bugger was a big ole’ snapping turtle. I pulled over and put on the four-way flashers, and my mom and I jumped out and pointed to the turtle as drivers passed so they would go around him.

Now how the heck were we going to get this guy off the road? For those of you who are familiar with turtles, snappers can be mean buggers, and this guy was about the size of a dinner plate. I quickly grabbed my beach towel from the car, raced onto the road when the coast was clear and threw it over the turtle. He was not too pleased with me picking him up, but we made it back to the ditch in one piece, where I released him into the cattails.

Phew! Talk about raising your blood pressure! But it made for a good start to the holiday weekend.

Yesterday I was out riding my horse Larry down the gravel road. We were going along at a good trot when he looked at something in the ditch to his left and side-stepped to the right. It wasn’t even a spook, but more of ‘I think there’s something down there.’ I ignored it at first and we continued down the road. On our way home we passed by that same spot, and I realized there was a critter laying there. A closer look confirmed that it was a small dog, curled up in a ball and shaking like a leaf.

A quick call to my mom and she suggested I bring it some food and water. Half an hour later I retuned in my car to find the pooch in the same place. It appeared frightened but not hurt. My mom found the owners on craigslist, as they had posted an ad about a missing dog. She had been frightened by the fireworks on the 4th of July and ran away from home. It matched the description of this one – a small black cocker spaniel with brown above her eyes. It took some detective work on my brother’s part to find the number to call, as it had been listed incorrectly online. But I got ahold of the woman, who sounded as though she was going to cry on the phone.

The dog would not approach me, and simply stayed in the ditch and eyed me warily. The poor thing looked tired, and I couldn’t blame her. The distance she traveled from her home to the area I found her was probably close to 10 miles.

As the woman’s car pulled up, the dog stood up and pricked her ears. The reunion of mom and dog was precious. The dog quickly got up and walked over to her as if to say ‘Mom! You found me!’ The woman cried and hugged her dog and me at the same time.

I was incredibly thankful for how the situation worked out. If Larry and I had ridden on the other side of the road that day and he hadn’t spotted the dog, she would probably still be roaming the countryside.

Whether it’s saving a turtle on the road or opening a door for an elderly person, it’s not hard to pour kindness back into the word. Kindness doesn’t have to be a gallant gesture, like buying someone’s gas. It can be as simple as looking at the world around you in a more selfless manner.

Never underestimate the power of circumstantial acts of kindness.

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