A Dog’s Life

Posted: June 26, 2007 in Acceptance, Compassion, Friendship, Homelessness

Anyone who has ever had a pet – especially someone who’s had a dog as a pet – will tell you that a bond develops between human and canine. That bond can become as strong as the bond a parent feels for their child. So it’s no wonder that Americans spend as much money each year on pet care as they do.

The wonderful thing about dogs is their loyalty to us – and ours to them.  

We don’t care if they’re AKC registered, a mixed breed, a mutt, a pet we acquired from the pound or just some scraggly mangy creature we found wandering the neighborhood – we love them just the same.

They love us as well. They don’t care what we look like: if our hair is standing on end when we wake up in the mornings; or if our clothing is tattered and torn; or if we look like we just dropped off a cabbage truck. We could come home after having fallen in a mud hole and they’d still be just as delighted to see us.

Even if we scold them for having an accident in the middle of the floor of for having chewed up our favorite pair of shoes – they love us just the same. No recriminations, no nagging, no criticism, or anything else of that sort. They shower us with loyalty and a simple joy at just being in our presence.

We could be gone for less than ten minutes and when we walk back through the door they have this way of acing as though they haven’t seen us in years, with tails wagging full force to let us know that they missed us while we were away.

I’ve seen some dogs whose tails start wagging with such intensity at the return of their human that the entire back ends of their bodies come right up off the ground. And whenever they’re walking with us out in public, they have this way of being proud of us. They walk with an attitude that says: "Look at my human. Aren’t they a beautiful specimen?"

In the time I’ve been homeless I’ve had the good fortune to meet a number of really wonderful people. Whenever we see one another, I get the same feeling that a dog get with their master. I get so filled with excitement at just being in their presence. If I had a tail it would be wagging full force.

They have this remarkable way of making me feel good about being me. They also have this wonderful way of seeing me as Michael – not Michael the homeless person. It doesn’t matter to them that I may not be the best dressed person in the area, or that I didn’t remember to shave that morning, or that I’m carrying around a backpack that weighs about 15 pounds.

And although they recognize that homelessness is my lot in life at this point in time, they are still able to interact with me as though I’m a life that matters. They have been able to see past the veneer of homelessness and see the person beneath.

Whenever good things have happened in my life, they’re just as excited about it as I am – perhaps even more. They have continued to encourage me in my quest to advance up and out of homelessness – especially during those times when situations seemed darkest.

These people allow me to feel some semblance of connectivity to the community. They are a type of umbilical cord that helps sustain me through the roughest of times.

In a world where the homeless are generally viewed through jaded eyes, it’s a rare commodity to encounter people who are able to accept me as another human being.

And, it’s a wonderful experience to know each and every one of them.

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