Updated: Dec 13, 2021
“Need money for dog food.”
A homeless lady on a busy street corner
Was holding up this sign.
She had two dogs sitting down beside her.
I was at a stoplight when I saw her and her two dogs.
I didn’t know what to think.
I didn’t know what to feel
At first I felt sorry for her and her dogs.
Maybe she really did need help?
Maybe I could help her dogs?
Maybe I’d give her money
And she wouldn’t buy dog food with it?
Maybe she’d buy drugs?
Maybe she was the hungry one
and the dogs were her props?
Then I felt like her having two dogs was selfish of her.
If she couldn’t afford two of them
Maybe downgrade to just one?
Then I thought that someone like her shouldn’t be a dog owner at all.
But they all do,
They always have their signs.
Their shopping carts full of their treasures.
And their dogs.
Who was I to feel like she shouldn’t own them still?
Maybe they belonged to her before she was homeless?
Maybe they were the last part of her old life?
Her last members of her family?
Why should the homeless be excluded from owning dogs?
Maybe it was the last love they felt on this earth?
Maybe their dogs are the only reason they haven’t offed themselves yet?
Maybe the homeless needed dogs more than the rest of us?
The dog’s still loved them unconditionally,
The homeless never have their dogs on a leash,
The dog’s always stay right beside them.
Their loyal pets.
Even though there was no home for them to sleep in at night,
Their dogs still loved them.
And I have to assume
They love their dogs back.
Most of us have very high standards for dog care
Probably because of the unconditional love they give us.
We feel like they deserve the best life possible
And maybe they do.
I tried to take a picture of the lady and her two dogs
So I could reflect on these feelings and thoughts later
But at that moment
The light I was stopped at turned green.
I set my phone down to the empty seat next to me
And pressed on the gas.
I went about 40 yards before I saw another homeless man on another street corner
He had a dog and a sign.
I squinted to try read his sign.
“Please help my dog Stanley
He needs money for surgery
Stanley is my dog's name.
My stomach turned
And I kept going.
I couldn’t stand the idea of a human using our compassion for dogs as a way to get drugs.
I turned around,
went to the nearest store,
bought a bag of dog food,
parked on the side of the busy street,
cars honked at me,
I had stopped traffic.
I approached the homeless man with his dog.
As I got closer,
I could see how skinny and sickly his dog Stanley was.
"Here you go"
I tried to hand him that dog food.
"What is that?"
"What do you think it is?"
I could already tell where this was going.
"I don't need that.
I need cash."
I have to imagine that my eyes were full of venom,
"Your sign says you need dog food."
He wouldn't look me in the eyes as he said,
"It's just a sign."
I wanted more than anything to punch him in his toothless face.
I got back in my car,
I turned around,
parked on the street in front of the lady with two dogs,
I stopped traffic again,
I walked up to her with the bag of dog food,
she walked up to meet me.
"God bless you sir!"
She had tears in her eyes and her dogs were walking right behind her,
"thank you so much!"
"It's no problem ma'am"
I smiled at her.
She smiled back,
she was missing a tooth too.
She gave me a big long hug.
She smelled awful.
I held my breath
And tear rolled down my face.
I walked back to my car,
started her up.
And as I drove away,
I glanced at the women again,
she was pulling two dog bowls out of her shopping cart,
two of her treasures.
she set them down and poured some dog food in them.
Maybe people weren't that bad after all?
(This story is a piece of fiction.
I really just kept driving.
But I wish I was the man in my stories...)