We “rescued” Charlie (I really wanted to call him Dave but no one – no one, thought that was a good idea) when he was 16 weeks or so. He lived in an apartment in Concord with parents and two small children. This turned out to be a less than great living arrangement for a full bore, all work Border Collie puppy. So we brought him home to Sacramento. There were tears but we all knew it was for the best.

While better than an apartment building our house and it’s 1/8th acre soon proved to be just a bigger apartment for young Chuck. He was unimpressed by backyard frisbee and ball sessions. Walking was only exercise for me.

So I decided to do something for Chuck without knowing it was also for me. We –  Zach, Charlie and I – decided to drop in on the group of dogs that gathered each day and played. Running, lots of it, and wrestling seemed like the only hope I had of keeping Charlie. He needed to be tired. He needed to work and play. He needed to do this often. He needed a job.

I’ve lived in Sacramento for 25 years and managed only to meet my immediate neighbors and some of my wife’s colleagues. This is not me being in anyway arrogant – I’m a peculiar version of shy. As most everyone must know by now, I am not a master of conversation – less than appropriate things occasionally slip past the small, leaky filter I have between my speech center and my mouth. I am prone to monologues which are not to be confused with conversation. I’ve always been more comfortable as the wise ass in the back row – a guy with comedic Tourette’s .

After not going for several days, I gathered my courage and we arrived at the dog group with Zach and I visibly shaking and Charlie more excited than he had ever been – and Charlie does excited pretty well. I let the hounds off leash. Zach and I played frisbee off to the side and Charlie dove into the group of dogs. I kept an eye on Charlie, powered by cold fusion or some other impossible energy source, as he made his first few tries at being a dog among other dogs.

I knew no one. At some point Deb Popejoy walked over to say hi. She was the anti-me. A grown up with a network of friends and deep roots in the dog community and, as I know now, the world. She knitted colorful socks. I made sure, once I felt more comfortable, to thank her for that small act of inclusion. Without it I may have found some reason not to go play each day. I may not have been able to keep Charlie on a small lot in Land Park. I may not have become better, not great but better, at talking with folks I don’t know well or at all.

Thank you Deb for the past 9 months. Charlie and I and Zach will miss you each time we wander over to play.  We are sad and this will fade with time but never completely go away. You changed ours lives with a random act of conversation. Zach is a great dog but he’s all about flying disks and jumping. He is what happens when a dog is not socialized. Zach is me if I could jump. He is what happens when a kind person doesn’t take a moment to welcome a reclusive old man and his hounds into a wonderful group of people and dogs.