Today my friend Kristy and I went to Rubio's for lunch. On our way back our cars, Kristy noticed that an old man had fallen down in the parking lot. We hurried over to where he was; another concerned young woman met up with us on our way over.
I was completely shocked when I saw this little old man lying flat on his back on the concrete, holding onto his dog's leash for dear life. The dog was this really big black Labrador, and for some reason, the man was using his belt as a leash. What was really strange was that the old man's jeans had fallen down, and his button-up shirt was open. For an instant, I really didn't know what to think. I didn't know if he was some kind of pervert or homeless or what. I quickly decided that none of that mattered because of the look of utter anguish and helplessness on his face.
The other girl and I threw down our purses and handed the dog over to Kristy. We tried like hell to help the old man up, but for some reason, he wasn't trying to get up. He was just dead weight. He kept saying, "Let me pull my pants up," but he could never really get them up. And we couldn't lift him, even with three of us trying.
Thankfully, a young guy in an SUV stopped to help and was able to lift the old man up on his own. The old man was clearly shaky and embarrassed. He couldn't really stand up on his own. (I think he can under normal circumstances, but he was obviously shaken up.) He said something like, "The mailman left the gate open," leaving me to surmise that perhaps the dog was about to get out of the yard, and in a pinch, the man decided to use his belt as a leash so the dog wouldn't run away. I'm not sure how the parking lot of Rubio's figured into the equation, though.
We managed to get some information out of the old man. He gave us his daughter's phone number, and we tried to call her. No answer. We found out that his wife was dead and that it was just him and the dog. Also, the man kept saying that his truck was nearby, but he didn't think he could drive. Apparently, his house was very close by as well.
At this point, I had gone to my car for some rope in order to make the dog a proper leash. When I came back, another young guy had stopped to help, and I asked him to tie a good knot so that the dog couldn't get away. We were then able to return the old man's belt to him so that he could keep his pants up. We were also able to scrounge up some bottled water and an aluminum pie plate so that the dog could have a much-needed drink. The dog nearly dragged me into the bushes as he crawled in there to escape the heat.
We managed to flag down some firefighters who were apparently on their lunch break, and they came over and quickly took control of the situation. We determined that the young man who had helped the old man up would give him a ride home and that one of the firefighters would walk the dog to the old man's house. With nothing left to do, I dragged my sweaty ass back to work, the knees of my jeans dirty from kneeling down to hold onto the dog.
I thought about this poor old man and his dog for the rest of the day. I thought about how scared and vulnerable he must have felt. I have always loved old people: they contain so much history and yet some are so much like children in some ways. It's so difficult for me to watch the elderly suffer, knowing that they are fully conscious of that suffering.
I also thought about how a group of strangers were able to come together and help this man and his dog get home. We didn't introduce ourselves; we just did what we could to alleviate the situation, and then we went on our separate ways. I will probably never see any of them again, and yet today they all feel very important to me. And so do the little old man and his dog.
This experience is not something I will soon forget, if ever. At the moment, it feels profound, real, and raw. It just feels like something worth holding onto, no matter how sad I become when I see that poor old man's face in my mind.
I hope he and his dog are safe now.