Every day in the city I walk the streets at lunchtime. Just about on every block I see a beggar or homeless person subsisting on the edge of the footpath. Sometimes they hold up handwritten signs explaining their situation and asking for money. They never say anything, and rarely meet your eyes. Sometimes they just lay or sit there, the world going by them.
More often that not it seems these people will have a dog with them. The dog will snuggle in close, sleeping sometimes, and other times contentedly watching the passing parade of human beings.
I can understand why a homeless person would choose to share it with a canine companion. It’s a lonely and alien life living on the fringes of society. Going it alone is courting disaster and makes for rude mental health. It’s important to receive loveland affection, which you will from a dog, but equally important to give it.
Everyone has this stuff in them, a well of compassion, that if not used dries up and leaves you bitter and lost. To give is an act of life. To care for, to provide, gives purpose to what otherwise would be a meaningless existence. It’s also a stake in the future. It takes you forward one day to the next knowing that you have to find a way to live, if not for yourself, then for that beloved other.
The dogs themselves could ask for nothing more. They live to be companions, it doesn’t matter where or how. In the street, under a bridge, in a park, or in a comfortable home, your dog wants to be nowhere else but where you are.
Fogs are the most generous and unselfish of animals. They forgive quickly, and respond readily to the smallest signs of kindest or attention. They will gaze at you as if you are a god, and will give you a surreptitious lick just because they can. They are there for you, and in the strongest of bonds will happily sacrifice their comfort for your benefit.
I look upon these people in the streets with their dogs not sure what I should feel. Seems to me I feel both broken hearted and uplifted. To see those loyal dogs melts a part of me, and I wish only to shower them with grateful affection. What people dogs are!
I understand too at another level. I sailed close to the edge, but managed avoid living in the street. I’m sympathetic to those who weren’t so lucky, but happy that they have found the solace of meaningful companionship. Of such small things a life can subsist.
I return home to Rigby, and as always he expresses his delight with joyful abandon. I am the prodigal son returned. I am the morning sun. I am meaning and purpose. I am his beloved dad.
It fills me like sunshine, and in turn I spoil him. He gets my constant affection. When he looks to me he meets my eyes. I pat and stroke and caress. I make room for him to snuggle in the crook of my body. Together we watch the cricket or a movie. And I give to him more than I leave for myself.
This week again the dollars are tight again. I had $20 to spend on my weekly groceries, and he always gets first dibs. I can go without, but I won’t deny him. So of that $20 half was spent on hard dog food, and brown rice and carrots, which I boil up and feed to him 2-3 days a week for his health and variety. I had to make do with the rest, and if it gets any tighter it won’t change except that I might end up sharing his rice and carrots.
Dogs are a blessing.