Our thanks and appreciation to Tom Smith, author of, “The Final Harvest” for allowing us to share one of his stories from this book!
We made another annual trek to Park City this past Christmas season to see the sights, observe the shoppers and hopefully absorb some genuine Christmas spirit! My in-car chauffeur drove around the packed full front of the mall to the backside of the Sears Mall. This parking area was much less crowded with gas guzzlers as was the rest of the Park City area.
I will try to keep my ears, eyes and mind alert to preserve and record as I cautiously search for my Christmas story for this year. There is always something I relate to as newsworthy with a few appropriate stories written about later. Occasionally something jumps out at me that I deem worthy of future printed words. Other times it may be spoken words or actions of the crowded cast of characters performing on this grand, Park City, Christmas stage. Any of you familiar with my people watching written words already know this is but a hobby of the Ol’ Farmer.
We weren’t inside this less crowded area of the mall more than five minutes when my story for 2015 appeared directly before me. Moving at a much slower gait I knew at first glance to sit quietly in a nearby chair, engaging all my senses, and rousing them from hibernation for this special Christmas show. I prepped by mind and ears as my mind was already subconsciously writing this 2015 Christmas story.
What appeared to me directly inside the Sears Mall was a tiny booth in the center of the walkway as I began casually strolling forward. Located at this booth was a middle-aged, soft-spoken lady I immediately recognized as my neighbor, Linda Martin Rineer. This booth with appropriate literature was representing, with Linda, United Disabilities Services Dogs. Fumbling with a pen and tiny three-by-five inch tablet, I couldn’t write fast enough. I needed to illustrate all that appeared before me and everything my video processing, imagining mind assured me was yet to come.
Just then, the cute, adorable main attraction at the booth appeared from behind Linda. It was a ten-week-old chocolate lab puppy softly, cautiously and quietly restrained and trained by Linda, I remained seated on my available chair with an unrestricted view of this unrehearsed, unwritten as yet, story being performed before me. I remained unnoticed by Linda so I could visually inspect and survey both the dog and Linda’s routine without interruption from me. I could also hear her quiet instructions to this pup named Reese, with each command beginning with the dog’s name. Believing at first this story to be completely about this lovable pup and its gentle, soft-spoken trainer, Linda, I began to realize there was an unexpected, much more important scene transpiring before me.
To my surprise and enjoyment the story this day was all the folks passing by, and then stopping at the booth conversing with Linda and petting the appreciative pup. There were diapered babies in strollers and others carried by proud dads or moms with arms and legs flailing in excitement at the sight of the lab pup. There were old folks, some in wheelchairs pushed by others, all with accompanying, sincere smiles, gazing lovingly then patting the pup. There were teens and twenty-to-thirty-year-old people with tattoos, chains, piercings and implanted facial rings to businessmen in three-piece suits and shined shoes that viewed, smiled and stroked the furry back of this tail wager. A few appeared to approach tight lipped with clenched teeth transporting stress, tension and strained dispositions. Seeing this pup then bending down and petting the lab seemed to melt and remove all the stress in this now smiling person as the dog also appeared happy with a thankful, tail-wagging response. Amazing is what I was thinking of how Reese seemed to completely change the tension and strained dispositions of these Christmas holiday shoppers. Even Santa Claus or religious church services can’t always promote and provide this display of Christmas holiday spirit.
During the brief lull between shoppers Linda, with a constant smile and calm voice, would ask Reese to sit, lay down, shake hands, and roll over. As each appropriate command was accomplished Linda would reward Reese with a tiny treat retrieved from an unseen pocket. Totally absorbed and watching this public display of hound and handler for nearly two hours I became well aware how together they could completely change the disposition of stressful Christmas shoppers in an instant. The smiles and joy of Christmas was instigated by this four-footed, tail-wagging, furry one that also appeared to be smiling.
Observed also by me was how those congregated around Linda and Reese treated one another with sincere smiles and genuine, cordial comments. This joy appeared to be contagious as each who stopped to pet the pup became infected. Perhaps this may have been a pup-induced Christmas conspiracy opposing all troubled world conflicts that surround us. Possibly Reese and Linda were but a short-term antidote to counteract this temporary stress, tension and our own personal conflicts recognized today. This lovable lab and his joyous handler each appear happy, permeating and pervading a joyous Christmas atmosphere to all who approached them. I’m thinking the Christmas story I observe today is the one all passersby can definitely relate to.
I do wonder, however, of all who immediately appear to love the lab pup how many of those would possess the patience, perseverance, dedication and understanding it takes to train this pup to become a service dog? Linda indicated the last dog she trained was for a disabled vet and could do so many incredible things to nearly dressing and undressing this person. She also indicated every dog is limited and different in how much they can be taught.
We were also told by Linda that Reese was actually donated by the breeder in memory of Mikeala Wagner who was recently and tragically killed in a local auto accident. The stories continue from the United Disabilities Service Dogs. I encourage any who read this to support this dedicated organization and the unbelievable care and assistance these service dogs provide to those with disabilities. There were several volunteers at a long booth near Reese and Linda wrapping Christmas presents as a fundraiser for this organization. I genuinely urge you to support them this next Christmas season and observe the dog that will change someone’s life. Thank you.