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Daylight, a Reindeer and a Pack of Dogs

Some days you wake up and just ‘know’ that they’re going to be tough. You know the kind I mean.

You didn’t sleep well the night before and you’ve got a busy day planned with back-to-back meetings, errands and appointments.

You’re worried about a couple friends facing serious health threats and/or dealing with difficult issues.

You’re out of milk for your coffee, and the cat decides to vomit on the hallway carpet as you’re halfway out the door.

You feel like Gumby, pulled in several directions at once. On days like that it’s almost better to just put your head down, plow straight through and pray that you don’t run out of steam.

After you clean up the cat’s mess, of course.

I was in the middle of one of those days earlier this week. Chugging along, doing my best to just do my best and keep moving.

It was in midst of this day that I happened to look up long enough to encounter something that absolutely delighted me. And not just once, but three times.

The first ‘sign’ occurred as I was crossing a busy street on my way to the tram stop. I was en route from one meeting to another further downtown, and as I stopped briefly on the median as traffic whizzed by on both sides, I noticed a small red van parked precariously between the lanes on either side.

My eyes fell across the windshield and then to the road in front of me, when suddenly my head whipped back to the van. My mind had finally processed what my eyes had seen: in the front seat where a driver would normally be were three dogs of varying sizes and breeds. Sitting perfectly still, all in a row.

They were looking at me, yet none barked. If you’ve ever met our little cairn terrier Oli, you’ll know that the thought that a dog could sit in a car and not bark at someone less than 10 feet from him is nothing less than amazing.

As I stared at the dogs I noticed the black lettering along the hood and the left side of the van indicating that it was a dogwalking service.

I returned to the three dogs sitting placidly in the front seat and realized that there were another four dogs behind them, milling about in the back of the van. Seven dogs unattended in the van and not one was barking, whining, whimpering or howling.

Just then, the driver arrived onto the median with an eighth dog in tow. Noticing me staring at his charges inside, he nodded and smiled as he opened the driver’s side door and added the newest dog to the silent mix. Believe me, the Dog Whisperer had nothing on this guy.

‘So many dogs and they’re still so…so…quiet,’ I automatically burst out in English, stupified by the soundless canine gaggle. ‘They aren’t barking. Not even one. They’re, they’re… better behaved than children!’

‘Oh no, not really,’ he answered, laughing while easing into the seat and reaching to pull the door closed. ‘Well, maybe sometimes. They’re just excited about going to the woods to play.’

I caught myself chuckling at various points later in the day at the memory of the sight of all those dogs milling about the van, waiting patiently for the one who would deliver them to the promised land of nearby woodland.

Several hours later, I was trudging home from the tram, weary and in need of a few minutes to myself sprawled on the sofa before tackling the next item on the schedule. As I rounded the corner, I spied a Dutch woman in front of her door, her arms full with a bag of groceries and a box as she dug into her coat pocket for her keys.

At her feet was her four year old son, absentmindedly weaving a figure eight around her and singing loudly in heavily Dutch-accented English ‘Wudolf, the wed-nosed, weindeer, had a bery shiny nose.’

I was immediately overwhelmed with flashbacks of the annual Christmas special that I’d eagerly await each year as a child. As if on autopilot, I immediately responded with the rest of the line.

‘And if you ever saw it, you would even say it glowed,’ I sang, stifling a giggle.

Incredulous, the little boy stopped in his tracks, his eyes wide. As I passed by I heard him tell his mother in Dutch ‘Mama, that lady knows the words to the song, too!’

The third momentous ‘sign’ came a couple hours later on my daily dash to the nearby Albert Heijn grocery store for the makings of that night’s dinner.

I was going over the grocery list in my mind when my conscious mind suddenly became aware that something was distinctly different. I looked around and saw that no one was behind me, yet I felt a vague sense of unease.

I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but something was odd. I rifled through my memory bank trying to piece it all together.

It was five o’clock, the time when I usually duck out of the house to do that day’s shopping. I was following my regular route, and there were the usual number of passersby. Nothing new there.

Suddenly I realized: there was still daylight. It hadn’t been light out on my daily five o’clock Albert Heijn run for a good three months.

Somewhere in all of the hustle and bustle, the comings and goings and running hither and yon, time had passed and we were now gaining back precious daylight. I stood gazing around me in awe.

This trinity of simple signs had managed to deliver much-needed humor and good news. Individually, as each revealed itself I couldn’t help but smile, yet together the trio seemed like a hopeful harbinger of better things to come. 

If that isn’t a sign that we should try to see the pleasure in our daily lives and to laugh more, then I don’t know what is.

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