Never judge a book by its cover. In the literal sense of that phrase, I refer you to the cover of Lance: A Spirit Unbroken, which features a very nice photo of a gentle-looking Lance. With Lance, appearances could be deceiving. You never were sure what kind of mood he was in. I’d like to think that the gentle expression on Lance’s face in the cover photo is the “real” Lance, the dog that would have been but could never be only because he grew up in the wrong hands. In this essay, I’m using the phrase “Never judge a book by its cover” in the figurative sense.
Not too long ago, I was signing books at the Bikers for Boobs breast cancer charity event in Northhampton, PA. The word “biker” can conjure up visions of…well, you know. So, I’m sitting at my table and off in the not-too-far distance was standing a hulk of a man all of—I’m guessing—some 250 pounds of weight carried on a frame that reached well over six feet in height. He had his back to me, but I could see that his bare arms were tattooed to the max. On both elbows were patterns of a spider’s web. On the back of his shaved head, I could make out what appeared to be the end of a dagger or sword.
The biker kept moving his arms as if he was adjusting his grip on something. I guess I’ve been conditioned by all the recent gun violence because the thought flashed across my mind: “This guy has loaded up and is ready to go berserk!” I wondered if someone else packing heat would put him out of his misery before he put me out of mine.
Then, the man turned around and gently put two chocolate lab (I’m guessing the breed) puppies on the grass. They were very young and mostly content to lie in the ground snuggled up against each other while occasionally sniffing their surroundings. The biker was smiling and talking to them like a proud papa. Bikers and non-bikers alike approached to pet the puppies and chat with their beaming owner.
I took away two lessons that day:
1-Never judge a book by its cover—or a person by his or her fashion statement.
2-In a world suffering from so much disunity, dogs can be such great unifiers.
Walter Stoffel is a substance abuse counselor and GED teacher in correctional facilities. When not behind bars, he likes to read, travel, work out and watch bad movies. Major accomplishment : He entered a 26.2-mile marathon following hip replacement surgery and finished—dead last. The author currently lives with his wife Clara, their dog Buddy (another rescue), and cat Winky (yet another rescue).