The kindness of strangers.

When you have an unpredictable dog in your life, counting on the generosity of others becomes standard operating procedure. Even while that dog may be attempting to hump, playfully bite or dominate the generous stranger’s well-behaved canine. It’s a ritual I know well with Woody the black lab. Contrary to his incredibly sweet appearance on Instagram, he is an animal in the most primal sense.

This all came to a head last week on an early-morning walk. The timing was premeditated—my hope being that we’d avoid other dogs and people. But alas we ran into one of each just as two tennis balls went flying through the air. A situation I didn’t fully comprehend until it was too late, I helplessly watched as Woody went bounding toward the unsuspecting dog and its toys.

Those of you who know Woody’s history, know his taste for consuming objects—especially crushable, edible tennis balls. The routine is frustrating and predictable. He steals the ball and runs in circles until he can get it down his throat. Naturally, he won’t come anywhere near me during the process.

But I was lucky on this particular day. The other dog owner took an interest in the situation (and the possibility of getting her ball back). I talked her through the process of sneaking up on Woody, speaking to him in a soft voice and then grabbing his collar with a firm hand. She executed the moves beautifully and within seconds the glob of mucous-covered, pre-digested ball was in my hand, rather than Woody’s stomach. A $5,000 savings!

I always appreciate the courage of others and especially feel lucky when those people are random strangers. Sometimes things work out. Now I only hope I encounter this generous person again some day so I can express my gratitude and offer to replace the ill-fated ball that nearly resulted in yet another very expensive trip to the vet.

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