One recent night, Steve and I went to dinner at the San Diego Yacht Club, where Steve has been a member for decades. We took Beverly with us; she’s been at the club’s restaurant many times. Most of the tables there are supported by central posts (rather than legs), so it’s not easy to get a puppy to execute the Under command. Instead, we put Beverly in the Down position right next to the table. She had scarcely settled in when a woman from the next table over got up and approached us.
The woman explained that she had raised a CCI puppy several years ago, up in northern California. She had enjoyed the experience, although events in her life had prevented her from raising more than one. She just wanted to say hello; to reconnect, however briefly, with the puppy-raising community. We chatted with her for a couple of minutes, then she retreated to her table, and we turned our attention to the menus.
Beverly was pretty good. She broke her Down position a couple of times, but she eventually settled in. Although our waiter had to maneuver around her, he quickly let us know that he was a great dog lover, raising a young puppy of his own. Every time he brought something to the table, he shared another tidbit or two about his dog, and toward the end of our meal, he dashed over to our table.
“I was waiting until you guys were done eating,” he confided. He whipped out his cell phone; wanted to show us a few photos of his canine buddy, a goofy lab mix that he had named Andy.
I exclaimed over his dog’s cuteness, and the waiter looked happy. Steve and Beverly and I made our way out to the lobby. There two more sets of people snagged us to pepper us with questions about Beverly and the CCI puppy-raising experience. The woman I was talking to told me all about how she had long wanted to be a breeder-caretaker for the organization (but she’d been told that most of the breeding takes place up in Northern California). While she and I discussed this, Steve supervised Beverly’s interaction with a toddler and answered questions from the toddler’s mom.
Because Steve and I were relaxed and not in any hurry, I experienced all these interactions as pleasurable. We’re not deeply involved with the club, so we don’t know many of the other members. We’d never talked before with any of the folks who approached us that night because of Beverly. But she did for us what the dogs who graduate often do for the humans they serve — serve as a social bridge, a conversation starter, a facilitator of connection.
That’s not as flashy a trick as turning on a light switch or fetching something from the refrigerator. But I’ve come to appreciate that it’s as least as satisfying.