Dale Of Present Past
Most immediately apparent is their connection through the manner of occupation and appearance. Both Shane and Dale are excelling in what, at least at first thought, would be considered more traditionally male-dominated fields---technical support and law enforcement. They are women trail-blazing in their own rights, which is awesome. At the same time Dale very much reflects Shane's earlier style---the ankle boots, pants, blazers and even shorter hair.
As I began watching Dale more closely, I couldn't help but begin to refer to her interactions with Oliver as "clumsy." She seemingly forces him into a corner in declaring, "That's what I love about you, Oliver" in One In A Million. Then in Lost Without You, Dale can't help but take Oliver's face into her hands, as if forcing him to focus on her, when Oliver meets Dale in the hallway. Shane seemed to do similarly clumsy things during the series, most noticeably in The Masterpiece, through what was clearly more than just a song choice. Lo and behold, Oliver's utterance of "Where is Shane?" triggers that same song to play.
Dale's actions and appearance are the standard by which we can see how Shane has evolved in relating to Oliver and growing into herself. While a present reflection of the past, Dale held the keys to the future as well.
A Valley To Cross
The name "Dale" means "valley" or "lives in the valley", and her surname, "Travers" means to cross. She is literally named "valley to cross," though in retrospect she seems to be "liv[ing] in the valley" herself.
"Trust the timing."
The moment it came out of Dale's mouth it didn't sit right with me. In fact, particularly in reference to her stalled relationship with Oliver, it sounded like an excuse. An excuse not to act, an excuse to allow things to remain as they are, and have been, for the better part of sixteen years.
Unfortunately for Dale, God doesn't want us to "live in the valley"---it's a temporary place He intends for us "to cross" out of an into the bigger and better things He has for us. And in this sense it's clear that Dale still has quite a lot of growing yet to do. As a result, she stands as an identifiable marker of the past by which others can assess growth and progress.
Similarly, Dale helped Shane out of her spiritual valley, where the new perspective Dale imparted upon her turned Shane from "not a church person" into someone who was instinctively drawn first to the woods to pray when she "[didn't] know how," then to the hospital chapel to give thanks for its answer.
Through these lenses it's clear Dale served a greater, multi-dimensional purpose that is deeply tied to the meaning of her name, while simultaneously allowing her to be an easily recognizable connection to both Shane and Oliver's past and future.
In Her Corner, Too,