Of Alpine Hats and an Emotional Support Dog

A kind of odd and sweet thing happened last night:

I’d been sitting in the recliner by the fire – getting toasty and comfortable and kind of nostalgic – and I’d impulsively grabbed Dad’s old alpine hat from the mantel and put it on my head. And his hat is so full of HIM, you know? It’s like an extension of him, really – a part of him. And my thoughts were suddenly flooded with memories of Dad. It was weird – because I was feeling Dad with me, but not as an aged father – I was feeling him with me as a man in his prime – and as a dear friend and hiking partner – as my contemporary, rather than as my dad.

I sat there quietly crying to myself, remembering our hikes and climbs together – and our times of laughter. Mom was with us then, too – standing with Dad, and smiling. The tears gathered and spilled and I made no effort to stop them. but I didn’t make any sounds – I thought I was being unobtrusive – my son, Xander, was sitting near me in another chair by the fire, working away on his laptop on some project, and I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. I’d thought I’d made my own private quiet space for myself there.

But I hadn’t taken into account Sam the Wonder Dog. Suddenly Sam lifted her head from where she was curled up in another chair and brought her eyes to mine and she just stared at me – intently and unblinking – for maybe two or three minutes – it was… I’ve never seen her doing anything like that before. And then she uncurled herself from the chair and walked over to me and stared at me again – watching and alert and just BEING there, you know? I wondered if maybe the hat was confusing her, making her think Dad was in the room or something – so I reached out and petted the nobby top of her head, and her ears, and her snout and asked her if she remembered Grampa Dee – and after a bit she went back to her chair and curled up again.

Xander left the room for a while then and came back ten or 15 minutes later. And he made an observation that surprised me, but made perfect sense, too. Apparently he HAD been aware of what was going on with me. And he said, “I think Sam came up to you – not because she thought you were Grampa, but because she’d suddenly realized you were crying and she wanted to comfort you.” Sam is very sensitive to our feelings, he said.

Whoah. I looked at Sam – curled up in the chair now – and I looked at her with new eyes. I went up to her and petted the top of her head again. And thanked her.

It appears I have my own emotional support animal.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell