I almost didn’t go running this morning. But I had to think about something.

I’d woken up to an email about being nominated for a TED award and possibly doing a talk in Vail, and I wanted to let ideas rumble around. I hoped the rising sun would shine some light on my own muted consciousness in the dawn’s half-light so I put my shoes on and took off.

In the first few steps I had the idea that the talk could be about how there can be something post-traumatic other that a disorder, and how our traumas are relative. For some trauma means roadside bombs and IEDs. For some it means the loss of a father or a spouse or a dream.

Or even a dog.

You may already know the story of how the FOR THE SENDER project began, with the loss of my black Labrador, Kona. The short story is that I’d always been something of a loner and felt disconnected from the world at large, unable to find the deep friendships that everyone else seemed to have. But when I picked up that puppy in a garage in Utah, I found my truest partner and friend, who would be with me for almost 15 years, before succumbing to cancer on my living room floor.

Anyway, as I turned into the estuary a few hundred yards from my house, I thought maybe I should start the talk with Kona as an example of how trauma is relative, depending on where we are in our lives.

Then I thought maybe not.

And then it happened.

A young black Labrador came bounding at me from nowhere. She touched my foot with her snout and then took off down the trail, and for the next ten minutes she ran with me. She’d sprint ahead and then come back to check on me, then sprint ahead again and come back.

We got to a crossroads in the estuary and I waited with the dog, because I thought she must belong to someone. A few minutes later I heard someone calling Karma! Karma! and within a few seconds a woman came through the trees, saw the dog, and said Karma come here!

That the dog’s name was Karma would have been enough. So close to Kona in spelling, so much meaning behind the word.

I said I have to tell you something and the woman looked at me sort of warily until I started telling her about losing Kona and how this young black dog that looks just like her came to me just as I was thinking about whether to mention her in a talk. I told her I was thinking about this idea of trauma being relative, and how that same feeling can be called by so many different names, depending on our situation.

The woman didn’t say anything, and I wondered if I’d said something wrong.

Maybe she’s not seeing what I’m seeing.

And then a tear rolled down under her sunglasses.

She said she got Karma because her older dog died.

Her name was Kona.