The Five O’clock Shadow

By Jim Sollecito

Laura, a retired nurse, and Penelope, a Helping Hounds Rescue Dog from Alabama. “Their connection is undeniable,” says Jim Sollecito.
Laura, a retired nurse, and Penelope, a Helping Hounds Rescue Dog from Alabama. “Their connection is undeniable,” says Jim Sollecito.

I like dogs. I am a dog kind of guy. Dogs seem to sincerely understand and care when I talk to them. They get it.

When I come home, my dog is there by the door waiting for me. No matter the time of day, she sits patiently anticipating my arrival. As our eyes meet, we immediately know what kind of day each of us had and there is an exchange of unconditional mutual respect and adoration.

I grew up around dogs of various sizes, shapes and colors. My job was to mix canned Ken-L Ration with dried Purina and give fresh water. I am not telling how I know but I can share that a 50-pound bag of dried Purina dog chow stays crunchy a lot longer than one might expect.

Marriage and our first house purchase were soon followed by our first dog together. Our current dog Lucy is an intricate part of our lives, as were her predecessors, Lady, Jasmine and Stella.

When I see a particularly interesting relationship between a dog and its person outdoors in their landscape, I take notice. I have routinely witnessed a woman and her black dog playing catch by the same blue spruce trees pretty predictably at five o’clock every day. Introducing myself one day I learned that 5-year-old Penelope is a Helping Hounds Rescue Dog from Alabama. She was taken in by Laura, a retired nurse whose career took her to Community Hospital. Nowadays Laura does not get around easily. She uses a cane but that has not dampened her enthusiasm or very apparent affection for these daily workouts with her best girl, familiarly known as Penny.

As you can see from the photo, they are a team. Loyal Penny shadows her friend and they are most certainly stronger together than they would be apart. As usual, we ask: who rescued whom?

Their connection is undeniable. No matter how many times Laura throws the ball, her faithful friend retrieves it. Regular volunteers at St. Camillus, Laura and Penny exchange smiles, wiggles, wags and unconditional love with people unable to keep their own pets anymore. By this simple gesture, what a gift they give.

Those two provide a very real and lasting impression. Life could be viewed as a long string of memories. Or it can be what we’re doing right now and what we will do. Like anticipating the visit of a volunteer and her dog.

Many of us have experienced change through giving. We are better because of it. If you see your glass half empty, pour it into a smaller glass. And then share it with someone else. Giving can change you as much as the people you reach.

Jim Sollecito is the first lifetime senior certified landscape professional in NYS. He operates Sollecito Landscaping Nursery in Syracuse. Contact him at 468-1142 or