- Author: Billy Baldus
- Subject Matter: First impression
- Issue: Shared experience
Sometimes when you meet someone, you have no idea the lasting impact they’ll have on your life. They might annoy or burden you or seem like someone just whizzing by in the periphery. And sometimes, even when the start isn’t great, it’s the beginning of a relationship you just can’t shake.
When I look at my black and white Chihuahua, Cha Cha, I can’t help but think of the first time we met and how much it taught me about relationships and first impressions.
It was getting close to noon. The air was hot. The sun shined down with not a cloud in the sky. A gust of wind blew some desert dust past me, a free exfoliating treatment. I was standing on an old dirt road not far from the base of Mount Cristo Rey. I had just hiked all the way to the top. The mountain straddled the border of Sunland Park, N.M., and Juarez, Mexico.
My wife, Anna, her dad, George, and our dog, Neeka had gone to the store instead of hiking with me, given the desert heat and blowing sand. Plus, we didn’t want to risk our 1985 Holiday Rambler RV getting damaged or broken into as rumors claimed could happen in these parts.
Vroom. The Rambler came around the corner onto the dirt road, generating a considerable cloud of dust. I opened the side door and hopped over to a seat at the table. I started to relay the tale of my hiking adventure when there was suddenly a small black and white face looking at me. “That’s Sally.” Anna said. “Dad got her for us.” George held the tiny black-and-white chihuahua toward me. I glanced around, caught off guard. Anna smiled. George chuckled. Neeka looked annoyed.
Anna explained how it was dog adoption day, and that George had the exact amount of cash in his pocket for the dog. “It’s like it was meant to be!”
By now the dog was on my lap and we were on our way to a nearby Walmart to get the new dog some supplies. New dog? I thought. I was still trying to process what was going on. How am I going to get us out of this? As we drove into a retail strip filled with chain stores, big-box retailers and restaurants, the dusty dirt road had been replaced by pristine four-lane roads bustling with cars.
With the Rambler parked, Anna and George prepared for a trip into the store. “Are you sure you don’t want to come in?” Anna asked.
“No, I’ll stay here with the dog. Oh, I mean dogs,” I replied.
I was still trying to figure out what to do about this situation. It had been roughly 20 minutes since I was picked up. My plan was to sit and think and hopefully an answer would come to me on what to do about this relationship I simply didn’t want.
It didn’t take long. As soon as George opened the door, out ran the tiny black and white dog. Anna screamed. George yelled. And I sprang into action, finding myself sprinting across the Walmart parking lot chasing a fast, little dog that I didn’t know if I wanted to keep. At least I did know one thing: I did not want this dog to be squashed – and she was heading straight towards a busy road.
Over the course of the next several minutes, many things happened: The dog crossed traffic. I crossed traffic after her. I nearly had her when she crossed traffic again and zoomed down the road.
Pedestrian bystanders, a police officer, and vehicles got involved, they too trying to catch the little dog. Sweating and out of breath, I got offered a ride from a stranger pulling me into a Ponderosa parking lot. And still she eluded us all into the mysterious confines of a fenced-in utility compound.
I carefully navigated the coils of barbed wire on top of the fence. I dropped down and was in. It was quiet and still inside the compound – a little too quiet. Surrounded by tanks, conductors, pipes, and conduits, I wandered the area trying not to touch anything. I again had a thought that maybe this was it, that she was gone. And again, my thought was dashed when I looked under the largest set of conduits. There she was: a little dog huddled up against the wall on the far side. She looked scared and tired.
I army-crawled on my stomach towards her. Using all the cooing dog talk I could think of, I slowly progressed closer. My cooing must have worked – that and the nearly 40-minute chase that proceeded it. I grasped the dog and wiggled my way back out.
Dog in my arms, I suddenly felt kind of attached to the being that just a bit earlier I was pretty sure didn’t have a place in my family. I walked with her around a corner and back into view of the gate. The team of strangers at guard erupted into cheers and jubilation upon the site of me with the little dog in hand. We passed the dog through the gate, and I climbed back over the fence, this time aided by an old carpet the strangers had thrown over the barbed wire.
Lots of high five’s, celebratory dances, and smiles were exchanged before the crowd all went their separate ways. One person was nice enough to give me and the dog a ride back to the Walmart parking lot where this whole ordeal began.
Sometimes great relationships are formed from a shared experience. Sometimes the best relationships get off to the rockiest starts. Be patient in your newest relationships, whether a customer, business partner, supplier, employee – or four-legged friend. Even the wildest, untamed beginnings can turn into the most loyal people in your pack.