Sean of the South: Good


Sean DietrichBy Sean Dietrich

The old dog was found walking on the highway. She had no name. No home. Nobody.

The guy who found her was a guy we’ll call Peter. I call him this because this is his name.

Peter was 67 years old at the time. He was riding in a cab, leaving a doctor’s appointment.

He had just been diagnosed with a congenital eye disease that was getting worse. Soon he would be blind.

To complicate Peter’s life further, Peter was also Deaf. He spoke sign language. But the blindness was a game changer.

“It was pretty hard to communicate,” said Peter. “And it was about to get harder.”

Peter told the cab driver to stop the car.

“What?” said the driver, who was doing 65 mph.

“I said stop!” Peter shouted.

“Okay, Jeez,” said the driver (Peter could read lips). “You don’t have to shout.”

Peter doesn’t mean to shout. When Peter speaks, he uses a loud, moanful voice, because Peter has never heard his own voice.

The cab driver pulled over. Peter leapt out and trotted to the dog. The old girl came right to him. She had some cocker spaniel in her. She let Peter pick her up.

He carried her back to the cab. She was covered in grime and funk.

“I don’t allow pets in my cab,” said the driver.

Peter begged.

“Rules are rules, pal.”

Peter offered to pay extra.

The cab driver rolled his eyes and told him to get in.

The first order of business was to bathe the dog. The poor girl had mange. Mange is caused by microscopic mites that live just under the surface of the skin. If dogs don’t bathe, dogs can get mange.

Mange is no joke. Even people can even get mange. My uncle Tommy Lee, for example, once caught red mange. His pals at the Legion hall thought this was hysterical. He got free drinks for life.

Peter was able to get the mange under control. The dog had facial scars where hair wouldn’t grow, but she was okay. She gained weight. She became healthy. He named her Earline.

And when he finally lost his sight, it was Earline who was his primary friend.

Peter communicates with a Braille QWERTY keyboard. “Earline is my best friend,” he writes. “She has helped me through the worst period of my life.”

There is another person I want to tell you about. I will call her Wanda. Although that’s not her real name. Wanda was 52 years old. Two kids. Nice house.

Wanda lost her husband to murder three years ago, in a big city downtown. It was a random incident. The details don’t matter for the purposes of this column, but Wanda had a lot of guilt to deal with.

“That’s the main emotion you feel,” she said. “Guilt. I don’t know why. It wasn’t my fault.”

Enter Arnold. Arnold was the 9-year-old who lived on her street. Arnold was as cute as a duck in a hat. He came to her house one sunny afternoon and asked if he could cut her grass.

“But you’re a little young for mowing yards,” Wanda said.

“My foster mom said I can cut your grass if I’m careful,” he said.

So Wanda agreed. Arnold mowed her lawn more often than her grass needed cutting. He liked her. Wanda liked him. She made him lemonade, and sandwiches, and she sat with him on the porch and talked to him about school and such.

One day, Arnold told Wanda that his biological mother had been an alcoholic and a meth addict. Arnold said he had partial fetal alcohol syndrome.

“What’s that?” Wanda asked.

“It’s why my face looks messed up,” he said.

Wanda had noticed Arnold’s facial abnormalities, of course, but she didn’t think anything about it.

Then Arnold said something which Wanda will never unhear. “Nobody wants to adopt me,” he said, “because I’m so ugly.”

Six months later the little boy was living in Wanda’s house. She became his legal mother. Today, Arnold is a college student.

“I just had to share that story with you,” Wanda wrote to me in an email. “Because my son has changed my whole life, he’s helped me fully grieve and heal. He’s taught me what unconditional love is. And love is what it’s all about, right?”

Peter. Earline. Wanda. Arnold. I just wanted you to know about them.