I was taking a leisurely afternoon stroll around a campground. Coming toward me was a man walking a dog.
When the dog saw me he freaked out. He was immediately on high alert. His ears went up like antenna. He stiffened and then did an agitated dance. And then he hid behind the legs of his human walker
The human laughed uneasily and apologized to me on behalf of the dog.
“That’s all right,” I said. “He’s afraid of the wheelchair. I’ve seen it before.”
I’ve also gotten the opposite reaction from dogs. I once came across a woman walking a big dog and when the dog saw me he started panting heavily and dancing for joy. The dog seemed bent on jumping on my lap and smothering me with sloppy kisses. The dog stood up on his hind legs as the woman pulled back hard on his leash to keep him away from me.
“I’m sorry,” the woman said to me. “His favorite person is in a wheelchair.”
That’s what I love about dogs. They’re honest. They don’t bull shit around about how they feel.
Anyway, the man walking his dog around the campground gestured toward my wheelchair and said, “It's just that he’s never seen one of those before. He’ll get used to it.”
The man and his dog proceeded on past me. The dog looked at me suspiciously the whole time.
That encounter made me feel hopeful and optimistic. It made me feel grateful for my crippled ancestors who came before me. Because that dog freaked out like a lot of humans freak out when they encounter a cripple, only the humans aren’t honest enough to admit it. Instead of doing agitated dances, humans react in more subtle ways, like not making eye contact or building things with steps on the front entrance so cripples can’t get in.
But life has generally gotten better. Navigating through each day is smoother for me than it was for the generation of cripples that came before me and the generation that came before them. And that’s because more and more of those cripples didn’t stay home and hide. They went out and about and eventually humans didn’t freak out as much. They got used to us.
And I have faith that things will go even smoother in the future for the criplets of today because I’m out and about.
I really enjoyed my afternoon stroll.
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