Passion of Mind

                        Harley's Sixth Sense

and his gift to an old man 

Harley and I woke up to a beautiful sunny morning. We packed a few necessities in the car and left the house early in the morning for a long hike in the woods. As we were exploring a new territory, we saw an old man coming slowly towards us. He had a walker that he supported himself on and every step he took was extremely slow and seemed to be a struggle for him. He was shaking and seemed very fragile, but I reacted to how well dressed he was in a perfectly crisp white pair of pants and a white shirt. When he saw Harley and I walking towards him, his face lit up and he had the softest smile.

Harley was off the leash as usual and before I managed to say anything, he took off to greet the man. I was a bit concerned that Harley's happy "propeller" energy would be too much for the old man, but as Harley came closer to the man, he slowed down and then completely stopped. The man stretched his arm to pet Harley and Harley gently rubbed his head and body against the man's legs. He kept doing it over and over again enjoying being stroked by the old man.

I have never seen Harley interacting this way with a stranger before. Although extremely affectionate to me, and always friendly and eager to greet everyone, Harley usually has no interest in strangers we meet during our walks other than just saying a quick "hello", so this was highly unusual behavior for him. The man was clearly enjoying Harley's affection, but he was so weak that he had trouble standing even with the support of the walker. I helped him to a lounger placed in his garden, so he could lie down. I then watched Harley carefully putting his head on the man's lap and standing completely still as the man was slowly stroking Harley for a long time with his shaking hands.

Watching my beautiful boy with this old fragile man was such a touching experience. When Harley put his front paws on the lounger to be able to reach the man's face and give him the gentlest kisses, the man’s face lit up and I could tell how touched he was by Harley's affection. He put his shaking arms around Harley and kissed him and I was sure that I saw tears in his eyes. I sat quietly and watched this unusual display of affection. When it was time for us to go, the man grabbed my hand and asked if I could bring Harley the next day. In any other circumstances, I would probably nicely decline, but the connection between Harley and this old man was highly unusual and something in me sensed that it was important for the both of them to see each other again. Without a second of hesitation I promised to come back with Harley the next day.

As we were leaving, the man hugged Harley and then looked at me with his piercing pale blue eyes for a long time and then said with a quiet, yet surprisingly strong voice: "The love you two share will never come to an end. You will be joined together forever one day. You need to find comfort in that before the loss takes over your life". I was stunned by his words, as there are very few people in this world who know how intertwined Harley and I really are. This man was a stranger, so how could he tell ? Little did I know, I would find out the full meaning of his words the very next day. I waved good-bye and even though Harley followed me immediately when I called him, he kept stopping and turning around looking at the old man still lying on the lounger. 

That night, something woke me up and when I opened my eyes, I saw Harley sitting on the bed next to me with his head just above mine, his eyes wide open staring at me. There was something in his eyes and in his demeanor that I have never seen before... His body was totally still, but his eyes showed impatience. I immediately understood that he wanted me to do something. As soon as Harley saw that I was awake, he jumped off the bed and looked at me giving me a signal to follow him. I dragged myself out of bed and followed Harley to the front door.

When we went outside, Harley slowly took a few steps into the garden and stopped. He then looked up at the sky and stood still for a long time. And then he suddenly smiled seemingly watching something in the sky. I stood next to him looking up as well trying to figure out what he was seeing, but I couldn't tell. It was middle of the night and I was tired, but Harley showed no interest to move just staring at the sky with a grin on his face. Finally Harley looked at me and slowly turned around letting me know that he was ready to go back inside. I followed Harley to the bedroom; he jumped on the bed, snuggled next to me and with a content sigh immediately fell a sleep. Harley's behavior was uncanny ever since we met the old man earlier that day, but I wasn't prepared for what was about to come...
 
The next day, after taking our long afternoon walk and swim, Harley and I went to see the old man and when we rang the door bell, an older lady opened the door. Before I even had the chance to say anything, the lady said: "You must be Harley" as she bent down to pet him. I watched in total disbelief as Harley, who normally is a happy "propeller", sat next to me like a statue. I have never seen him this stoic before. I said: "Harley, say hello", being sure that Harley would at least stand up and wag his tail, but Harley wouldn't move. And then the lady said that her father died that night. The last conversation they had was about Harley. Her father told her in detail all about his meeting with Harley and how much it meant to him. He was in his 90s, very ill for a long time and too weak to leave the house.
He spent the last weeks of his life lying on his lounger in the garden. He felt better the day we met him, only hours before he died. 

The lady said that her father spoke of Harley with such warmth and was looking forward to seeing Harley again. Her father told her that he saw Roscoe in Harley and was convinced that it was a sign from his beloved dog that his time has come.

I must have looked like a question mark as the lady said: "Oh, he didn't tell you ?" - she sounded surprised and told me this:
Several years ago, her father had a Flat Coated Retriever and just like Harley for me, Roscoe was the love of his life. Her father was already retired, so Roscoe and he were inseparable. They were hiking, hunting, swimming, sailing, running, skiing... etc... always together. Her father was supposedly a very eccentric man and while he didn't like people very much, he was a huge animal lover and Roscoe was his everything. She was convinced that her father would have given his life to save Roscoe if there was a way to do that.

When Roscoe died, her father emotionally never recovered from the loss and he never had another dog. He became a hermit. "In a way" - she said - "it's like he closed his heart to everyone and everything the day Roscoe died years ago and opened it again yesterday when he met Harley". Her father believed for all these years that Roscoe was in Heaven and that one day he would be running to meet him when his time came to cross the Rainbow Bridge and that they would be together forever from that point on. "Meeting Harley yesterday" - she said - "had a very strong impact on my father and he was convinced that Roscoe was waiting for him at Heaven's Gate ". He died that night in his sleep.

I then understood the meaning of the last words her father said to me the previous day... The loss of Roscoe took over his life. In a way, her father's heart died the day that Roscoe died many years ago and only his body died the previous day. He didn't want me to go through the same agony in the future after losing Harley. It was a dying man's advice to me, a stranger loving her dog the way the old man has always loved his Roscoe.

I felt cold shivers going through my spine thinking of my experience with Harley the previous night. He has never acted that way before. I told the lady about Harley waking me up that past night and standing outside looking at the sky with a happy grin on his face.

As we were leaving, the lady cried and while softly stroking Harley, she said to him: "You are a very special dog". Harley, remarkably stoic, looked into the lady's eyes and then gently licked the tears of her face. 
 
Harley and I wandered around for a while as I was trying to clear my head before heading home. I didn't know the man, but I was moved by his love for his dog Roscoe and how loving and affectionate he was to Harley. I was shaken by the experience, but also touched to hear that meeting Harley brightened the old man's last day of life - Harley gave him the amazing gift of forgotten joy just hours before the man died. I hope that Roscoe did wait for him at Heaven's Gate and that they were reunited forever. This is such a beautiful thought and something that I will always remember and carry with me. When the time comes for Harley and I to be apart, I will hold on to the thought that it is just for a little while.
 
Harley and I eventually got into the car and drove home. Harley was unusually quiet and I kept wondering.... I have never seen Harley interact with a stranger the way he did with the old man the previous day and I have never seen him as stoic as he was when he met the man's daughter. Why was Harley so affectionate to the old fragile man and why did the man feel such strong connection to Harley ? Why did Harley wake me up and led me out to the garden to just quietly stand and look up at the sky with a grin on his face the night the man died ? There was no way that Harley could have known... Did Harley sense that the old man's time was running out ? And did he smile because he could see Roscoe happily running towards the old man as he was crossing the Rainbow Bridge to be with his beloved dog forever?

                                                      THE END 

                                         Harley's Sixth Sense

and his gift to an old man

Copyright © 2010  by Monika Laryett-Olson

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