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Cool Paw Luke and Empathy

Luke the terrier

My family are soft-touches when it comes to stray or in-need animals. Our most recent addition is a thirteen-ish year old Yorkie named Luke aka Loki aka Gnocchi Noodle aka...

My wife tends to hang nicknames on critters like an over-sugared kid throwing tinsel onto a Christmas tree.

I'm not immune either. I often refer to him as Cool Paw Luke. Even hobbling around, he has an air of joie de vi·vre, that I can only aspire to.

He has also been teaching me empathy. As a writer, not to mention a human bean, I try to put myself in others' places to attempt to find common ground and understand why they may act, think, or react the way they do. Or in the words of Atticus Finch, "You never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them."

I spend a fair amount of time trying on other folks' shoes.

Luke is helping me with that.

See, Luke isn't just old. He is also mostly blind and deaf, and down to about four teeth. When we got him, he immediately imprinted on me, to the point that my family refers to me as his seeing eye and emotional support human.

My days are as hectic as most folks', punctuated by household, kid, and critter emergencies that lead me at times to feeling put upon and frayed. Happens to all of us.

Then, I'll hear a burst of goat blurting. Not an actual goat, mind you, although my wife would love one. It's Luke, who never learned to bark. His limited range of noises include small little guinea pig grunts when he is content or doing his doggie introspections, and shouts that you would swear came from an riled up Nubian when he needs something.

The something generally being me.

With his limited vocabulary, he can only yell if something is out of whack, or he has a problem. And it occurs to me that people do a heck of a lot of shouting for the same reasons, me included. Now, they may not be actual shouts but, regardless, they are calling out to the universe, to us, that something is amiss. Often, it isn't anything to do with what they are shouting about. It could be something at home, at work, or with their family, that is causing them pain. They just don't know how to articulate it.

But very often we only hear the noise, not what's behind it. We are wrapped up in our personal worlds, and pain, and don't take the time to really listen. Not just with our ears, with our selves.

With Luke, unless I decided to tune out his plaintive calls entirely (not happening), I don't have a choice since his two-note repertoire doesn't tell me much at all. I have to take a step back, really think about what is going on, what he might be experiencing, and try to connect with him to ease his mind. His pain.

Luke the terrier on guard

So, hats off to you, my furry little guinea goat. You are helping to make me a better person and, secondarily, a better writer. One day, perhaps, I'll be able to buckle a swash as well as you.


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Dec 08, 2023

I love this story! C. P. Luke is so cute and so lucky to land in your lap. Poor baby, blind and deaf. You are a compassionate person already, but if he makes you even more so, good for you both!

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Many thanks. He is a wonderful pup.

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