emember, wear your best smile!

emember, wear your best smile!

For decades I’ve shared a rare and wonderful relationship with a favorite teacher of mine from junior high school.

“Batman” had long enjoyed a wonderful reputation as an unapologetic eccentric who had earned his moniker by rescuing the small, winged mammals whenever and wherever bat-related screams of terror were heard. While the bat thing alone made him an easy hero for a weird kid like me, through the years it has become increasingly apparent he is the kind of person I have always aspired to be. We correspond weekly about odd weather, good food, great movies, old friends and fond memories.

At the end of each letter, Don adds this simple valediction, which always sparks a grin no matter how many times I read it: “And remember, wear your best smile!”

Great advice for any situation: A smile can soften a mood, seal a deal or even — in the right circumstances — change the course of a life. I’ve got a wonderful recent example of the latter.

It had been only two weeks since the passing of our beloved mutt Ruby May, yet it seemed like forever. Neither my wife nor I had ever lived a life without a dog in it, and the void in our household left by Ruby and her older “sister” Juni, who had passed away just a year prior, was palpable and enormous. It was never a question of whether we would bring another pup into the family, but rather when.

“Oh, goodness, John,” Kristin cried from the other room. “Come and take a look at this dog!”

Kristin had found a near carbon-copy of Juni awaiting adoption at the pound. Save for a gender flip and a stump for a tail instead of the feather-duster that had adorned our own beloved Border Collie, “Scooter” seemed to have everything going for him. We called the pound, set up a visit, and before sunset the following day, we were in the “greeting room” awaiting the entrance of what could quite possibly be our new best friend.

The visit didn’t go as planned. Scooter, for all his dashing, black and white good looks, was a bit of a snob. Interested more in sniffing the couch in the corner and carefully calculating an escape route through the back window, the dog didn’t give us the time of day. We traveled to the outside play area, where Scooter again expressed utter disregard for his potential new parents. We watched as he dotted every fence post, tree trunk and kennel run in the place without so much as a passing glance at either of us. It was during this surly runabout, however, that a sad shadow in one of the runs caught Kristin’s eye.

“So who is that guy?” she asked the attendant.

“Oh, that’s the new kid on the block,” he said. “He just came in last night, so he won’t be ready for adoption for a few days. Would you like to meet him anyway?”

We retreated to the greeting room and sat for a long moment wondering if the whole notion of a new dog had simply come along a bit too soon. Maybe we needed more time to grieve. Maybe we should just wait it out and keep watching the rescue websites.

Then the attendant walked in with mutt number two, and the pup literally “smiled” at both of us. Then without the slightest hesitation, he walked right over to Kristin and leaned into her for a big hug. She immediately started crying. He gave me an identical hug seconds later.

That same dog is curled up on my recliner as I write these words. He wore his best smile out into the world, and it made all the difference.

Kristin and John Lorson would love to hear from you. Write Drawing Laughter, P.O. Box 170, Fredericksburg, OH 44627, or email John at jlorson@alonovus.com.