In Coos Bay where I teach we have seen over the last ten years a marked increase in homeless people with signs standing at corners. Many of the regulars have dogs with them. Friday I saw one of the homeless riding his bike down the highway. A light rain was falling, and the clothes and face of the man were covered in grime; he looked as though he had been sleeping in the brush or under the bridge. But in a basket on his handlebars was the bright blond face of a puppy.
For a moment I was tempted to feel sorry for the dog. However, I have been watching the homeless with their dogs and noticed the kindness they show them. I suspect most the dogs are well cared for, so I reserve my compassion for their owners.
That those who cannot feed themselves would love and care for a dog is a testimony to how deeply we all need to love and be loved. And the capacity of dogs to love without judgment or reproach must be a great comfort to those burdened with failure and disappointment. So I am neither mad nor sad that the homeless have pets. I am glad.
A regular who begs outside the McDonald’s holds a sign saying, “I am ugly. Have no friends and want beer.” He actually is ugly—clothes dirty and stringy hair hanging in his face. He has, however, a beautiful grey and white pit bull on a leash that jumps happily about his feet. So his sign isn’t completely true.