(This has been sitting on my computer for a while. Sorry for not posting it sooner.)
Remember my post about personal ticks
Well, I basically had to put my personal tick aside today.
A Swiss woman came into Library X needing basic help. She was taking an accelerated language course at University Z. We set her up with a patron account, and I helped her with the copiers. Nice woman. Liked her accent.
I was working at my desk when I heard a loud burst of canine yapping.
I was instantly out of my chair because this was my personal tick. I did not like dogs in the library. I wanted my patrons to be from one species and one species only. Keep wild kingdom outside.
I checked with the student assts. They hadn't seen anyone just come in with a dog, and there was no one just standing there with a dog. There was a large group of students working around a table laughing in the general vicinity of the yapping. I thought maybe one of them had smuggled in the dog.
I walked over. The dog yapped again. The students laughed more. I asked them if they had the dog. They said no. They didn't know where the dog was. I couldn't see a dog with them, and the only other person nearby was the Swiss woman. I began to wonder if the yapping was a cell phone ringer. I'd heard yowling cats and chirping birds as ringers so it seemed possible.
I went over to the Swiss woman and asked, not really being serious, "Do you have a dog?"
"Yeah, he's right here in my bag."
She unzipped a black canvas bag and pulled out a Chihuahua. She'd had the bag with her the whole time I was with her. The bag had sat on our circulation counter.
"I'm sorry, but we don't allow dogs in the library." I said it nicely. I didn't point. I didn't scowl. I was sweating a little with a slightly accelerated heart beat. She'd had the dog with her the whole time? I felt betrayed.
"Oh, but I've been here all day. It's just those students made a strange noise that set him off."
The students whistled again, and the dog yapped from the bag.
"Yeah, um but we still usually don't allow dogs in here. I mean I definitely didn't know you had one, but we're not supposed to allow it." I was still in disbelief that the dog had been with her while I'd been assisting her. Right under my nose. I had to have been losing my touch. I used to be able to tell when mischief was a foot with only a stray shh...
"I understand. I'll leave. It's just I couldn't leave him where I was staying. I keep him in the bag and take him outside periodically to tinkle and stuff, but he stays in the bag. I'm sorry. I just couldn't think of anything else to do. I didn't have anyone to leave him with, and I hadn't planned to have him here by myself. He's, I mean was, my sister's dog."
I nodded my head. The woman kept talking. There was a hitch in her throat.
"She was supposed to come to University Z with me to take this course, but she passed away a few months ago. So instead of her being here with me, I have Toodles." Her eyes were welling up. "The professor is letting me take the dog to class, and Toodles is usually very quiet. It's just those students whistled, and he responded." Tears ran down her cheeks.
I moved in and started patting her on her back. "It's okay. He was very quiet. We just don't allow dogs in here. You can finish up what you're doing. And if you were to come back, no one would know that dog was with you if it stays in the bag." Yes, I suggested she break library policy. Cry, and I'll do anything. I've detailed before how powerless I am to tears.
"He's all the family I have left now. My sister lived in Michigan. We were identical twins so we were very close. I was going to go visit, and then we'd come here for the course. Instead, I had to make funeral arrangements and bring Toodles with me."
"It's okay. He was very quiet. Don't worry about this. It isn't a big deal."
The woman stood slightly slumped with tears rolling down her face. I felt awful. I knew what she was going through. I remembered having to explain why I hadn't done a short paper in college because I'd gone home for a week to attend a funeral. The tears just came. Grief can sneak attack you, especially when the cause is brought up. I rubbed the woman's back. She nodded her head and took a deep shuddering breath.
"You just finish what you were doing. Take your time. It'll be okay." She nodded her head.
"Thank you, and again, I'm sorry."
"It's okay. Don't worry about it. And I'll talk to the students to keep them from bothering the dog."
I walked from the copier area to the table of students. One of the students tried whistling again while his friends laughed. I waved my finger at him to stop. They wanted to know where the dog was and what was going on. I don't think they could see much of my interaction with the Swiss woman.
"The dog's in a bag. You can't see it. It's a very small Chihuahua. Just let her finish up."
The students nodded and let it go. The contrast between this jovial group and the quietly grieving woman had me sort of off kilter. I don't know if the woman ever came back to use Library X with her little black canvas bag, and I don't care. I'm willing to let things go. I'm mature. I'm flexible. Quit looking at me like that.
Labels: Crying, Patrons, Students