Duffy. A name impressed on my mind forever. It is the name of a sweet 14-year-old dog who lost his life one cold Ohio winter day. But Duffy is also the face of a lesson that I will never forget.
The lesson begins when I turned the car around. I was driving home on my lunch break after giving a radio interview. The event went well, I thought, and I was feeling exhilarated. As I was driving, I suddenly saw a woman about ten feet away from the road looking down towards the shoulder of this state highway. Then I saw something lying on the side of the road. At first, I couldn’t tell what it was. But, as I passed, it looked like a dog. “Is it hers?”, I thought to myself. The body language of the woman was hard to read as I was passing by at 45 miles an hour. However, I felt something. She appeared to be paralyzed, unable to move. A part of me wanted to keep driving…keep riding the high of my morning. But another part of me said to turn the car around. I did.
See, I have not always been willing to turn my car around. In fact, there have been times in my life, that I drove past somebody on the road and a part of me wondered whether they needed help. But very quickly, another part of me drowned out the other. I justified the situation away. The person was on a cellphone, so help is coming. Another person has already stopped, therefore they don’t need my help. It doesn’t look very serious; I have to get to my appointment. And a few minutes later, the whole situation passed from my rear view mirror and from my memory.
Recently, my wife and I have asked ourselves, why don’t we stop?
So here was my opportunity on this dreary, overcast Ohio day. In fact, I had just spoken on the radio about how my company loves to serve others, and how this fits perfectly with who I am as a person. As I passed this women, I found myself beginning to entertain the excuses. But I called myself out. And I pulled into the church parking lot just down the road and turned back to the scene.
As I pulled my car over, I rolled down my window and asked the lady if she needed help. Her face was filled with grief. She could barely speak. She didn’t know what to say or do. I asked what the dog’s name was and she replied sorrowfully, “Duffy.”
“I’m so sorry,” I said. She explained he had been lost for about five hours and that she lived down the road a ways. I then repeated, “Is there anything I can do? Can I help you get Duffy back home?”
She looked at me, glanced down at my office attire, and said, “No, you are too well dressed.” She didn’t want me to get some of Duffy’s blood on my clothes. I insisted that would not be a problem. I explained we could put him in my trunk and I could drive her and her sweet pup home. I didn’t have anything in the car with the exception of a few papers from a networking event earlier that day. It was going to make a mess of my trunk. But that didn’t matter to me. She took off her coat and wrapped her dog, trying to contain the body parts that had been partially ripped away. As we were starting to carry him across the road and to my trunk, another lady stopped and helped.
As we got poor Duffy in the trunk, and the lady got in my passenger seat, she explained how he was 14 years old and that he used to be a sled dog. I could tell she loved him like a child. Her grief and pain were deep. At a point, she said, “Oh Duffy, what did you do?” My heart ached for this lady and her loss.
We got Duffy back to the farm he had grown up on…where he had grown old with his owner. The lady thanked me several times for stopping. Despite the utter anguish all over her face, I could see the gratitude shining through. She was so appreciative somebody was there to help her bring her beloved dog back home. She even introduced herself.
In the emotion of the moment, I must admit that I didn’t commit her name to memory, but I will always remember Duffy. And I will always remember the lesson that had passed me by earlier in life.
My boy, my girl, if I forget to tell you, turn the car around.