Opinion: Be the change


Published: 07-07-2023 6:00 AM

Parker Potter is a former archaeologist and historian, and a retired lawyer. He is currently a semi-professional dog walker who lives and works in Contoocook.

Our daughter recently had her wisdom teeth harvested. Whenever I bump into someone on the threshold of enduring that blessed event, I tell them about the day when my own wisdom teeth left the building.

Curiously, I only ever grew three of them. I sometimes wonder whether I would be a wiser man if I had been able to muster a full set of four, but solving that riddle is way above my pay grade.

I parted ways with my wisdom teeth the summer after my junior year in college, just like our daughter did. As it happened, and unbeknownst to any of us, two of my high school classmates and I surrendered our wisdom teeth on the same day, in the same chair, to the same oral surgeon, back-to-back-to-back. I learned that when I was at home recuperating from my extraction and my mother got a phone call from my friend Steve.

Steve said, “Mrs. Potter, I am at Howard’s house. He just had his wisdom teeth pulled. I’m sitting with him, but I have to go. Could Parker come over and sit with him?” My mother told Steve that I was recovering from the same procedure, and relayed Steve’s request to me.

When I learned that Howard was sitting up, my recovery had not progressed past the prone position. Upon hearing that Howard was vertical, I decided that I was not going to let him get better faster than me, so I washed the dried blood out of my goatee and walked down to Howard’s house where we spent the afternoon sitting on his sofa and eating his mother’s matzo ball soup.

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A day or two later, when I was still in the jello-eating stage of recovery, my mother made hamburgers for the rest of the family for dinner. They smelled so good that I had to try one. My recovery was complete. Thanks to Howard and my mother’s cooking, I learned a valuable lesson about mind over matter. I suspect that I could have felt just as badly as I wanted to after my encounter with the pliers, but I was determined to go the other way.

Fast forward 45 years. As my bio box suggests, I spend a couple of hours every day with dogs. It has proven to be deliciously rewarding. Between the fresh garden veggies and eggs, baked goods, and home brew I receive from the families of the dogs I walk, not to mention some great artwork from the human siblings of my canine companions, I am certain that I am the best paid dogwalker in Contoocook.

But there is an even better reason why I walk dogs. I love the way I feel when I am with them. I appreciate the camaraderie, and walking with my dog friends fills me with such joy that it would not be hard to catch me singing to a bemused dog as we perambulate my route around town. Because I really enjoy being the person I am when I’m at the human end of a dog leash, I make sure to put myself in that position as often as I can.

Shifting gears just a bit, I turn to one of the inevitable by-products of dogwalking: dog poop. I am proud to say that in nearly three years of dogwalking, I have failed to recover only two poops, and the other dogwalkers who share my route generally have been equally successful. But about four months ago, I started seeing a sharp uptick in the number of abandoned dog poops along my route. I began to get a bit steamed up over all the new poops but didn’t say much about them in my daily Facebook posts. I didn’t want to tarnish my brand by becoming a cranky old man.

And the surplus poops persisted until one day when I figured out a solution. I get a Concord Monitor in a plastic bag on my doorstep every morning. It only took a couple of dozen bags to eliminate every one of the offending poops. I didn’t do my big poop scoop to be some kind of civic hero; I did it mostly for myself, to ensure that I had a nice clean route to walk and to remove the temptation to become the crusty old cranky pants I don’t want to be.

My poop project was actually my second clean-up along my walking route. Several months into the COVID outbreak, I started getting sick and tired of seeing discarded face masks all over the place. When I reached my breaking point, I filled a newspaper delivery bag with about two dozen nasty old masks, and ever since then, I have made it a point to pick up and throw away every one that I find. It’s my pandemic superpower.

And here’s the kicker. When I was doing my facemask clean-up and rooting around in the underbrush, I also found a $1 bill and a $10 bill. Karma is real.