“God bless you!” the young woman yelled from the minivan as it moved slowly through the intersection beside us.
I looked up, startled; I had not sneezed. But I quickly picked up her wavelength. “For what you’re doing,” she clarified. She was being charitable about a perceived charity.
The vehicle rolled on before I could think of an appropriate response. I wasn’t doing anything special, just walking Reese the dog, and if she had witnessed my career arc and financial portfolio over the past decade she would know I was not blessed.
Her sentiment may have been misguided, but it originated in the right place. She was alluding to Reese, who trotted behind me in his shiny, new month’s rent—I mean, wheelchair (before I placed the order, I made Reese sign a contract that he would live until at least age 15 to pay this off in snuggling and canine high jinks). It was Reese’s first walk in the wheelchair (and the human’s first time walking a dog in a wheelchair, which has challenges of its own), but after about a block it began to feel more natural to each of us. And I didn’t believe that not making an elderly dog whose hips are plagued by dysplasia and arthritis hobble his way around the park when alternatives were available was particularly praise-worthy. Reese is otherwise in decent health and ignorant of Donald Trump’s existence and thus able to enjoy life, so the decision to improve the comfort and quality of whatever time he has left—which better be at least two years—was an easy one.
Reese’s wheelchair use has been accompanied by a shift in people’s perception of and willingness to approach him. Despite what I feel are Reese’s obvious charms, others often steer clear of him due to his size and appearance; human prejudices concerning color and stock extend beyond our own species.
But in the few days since the addition of wheels, Reese has been a magnet for his favorite audience: strangers. What was a 20- to 30-minute stroll around the block has turned into an hour-long parade of adulation. There is nothing Reese enjoys more than attention from random passers-by, with the possible exception of green peppers and artisan cheese (preferably paired).
While I admire Reese’s adaptability, I suspect that he is now using his disability to self-serving ends. He steers assertively toward any prospective affection providers in our path. On our third wheelchair outing, as my better half guided Reese, I paused some distance ahead with Miles and an impatient Wyatt for nearly a quarter-hour while Reese basked in the adoration of a toddler and his grandmother.
Dog blessed them.