Can you feel without judgement?

Yesterday gleamed like a pearl on a string of Midwestern October beauties. Warm air, puffy cumulus, wild flowers, and a field recently shorn for hay welcomed me and Henrietta for a stroll. You might be surprised to hear the fourleg found several piles of coyote leavings to flop upon and wriggle in with delight? Nothing new… I just don’t think I’ve shared that delightful little quirk of Henny’s with you yet, have I?

I expect you can understand why I wanted her to get into the river for a dip before loading her and her fur coat — covered with partially digested berries, rodents, and rabbits — into the back seat. That’s the beauty of this field by the interstate, a river runs through it.

Henny was pulling like a workhorse as we approached the tall brush grown turn leading to the water’s edge. When we rounded, I spied first a woman with small children entering the water. A man stood on the bank next to an infant car seat carrier. I pulled back on Henny’s tether, and to my delight, she stopped per my direction. 

I took in the scene and considered my options… wait for them to get out, walk Henny across the bridge and about a half mile to a park where there is another river entry, or… load her up and give her a bath at home. While all this was scrolling, the man noticed me… and the woman with her little people had wandered a couple dozen feet upstream.

“Do you want the dog to get in?” he asked.

“Uhhh… kind of… She was rolling in poop.”

“That’s fine… we don’t mind,” he said, “but I should tell you we are all in various stages of Covid. We’ve been on quarantine going on a month now. With the weather, we took the opportunity to get out to the river today.”

“All of you?” I took a quick count… two adults, four children.

“Yes, even the two month old.” The dark-haired young man with a gentle smile motioned at the covered carrier. “For my wife and I… this was our second infection.”

“How old are your other children?” I asked.

“What are you talking about?” called wife to husband while holding a tiny hand to keep the child upright.

“Three girls — seven, six, and two. The baby is a boy,” he replied. Then he called back to his wife, “I’m just telling her that we had… have Covid. I felt I should let her know.”

“Well… if you really don’t mind, I’m going to let her in to wash off?”

“Go ahead.”

And so I coached Hen as she entered the water past tiny pink Crocs and various other footwear. Do not steal any shoes! She didn’t… Good girl Henny!

“Did any of you get really sick?” I asked.

“No,” he shook his head. “Slight fevers… for the kids.”

“That’s good. I’m really glad to hear that. It was lovely chatting with you.”

As Henny clambered up the slight incline I repeated, Do not steal any shoes! 

She didn’t. 

And while we walked back to the truck I pondered the weight of informing strangers of intimate matters on a warm October afternoon.