A few weeks ago I was in Portland, Oregon. I stayed downtown and was surprised by the amount of homeless I saw. I wasn’t upset or fearful. I was more intrigued. Many cities, Nashville included, “hide” their homeless. Visible homeless people are frowned upon. They are openly judged and treated as outcasts. Therefore, the amount of homeless men and women in the downtown area of Portland stood out to me.
I arrived late in Portland and went straight to my room. There I spoke with The Mister and briefly mentioned the amount of homeless. The next day, the number of homeless persons began to weigh on me. Then, I went to dinner. I ate a good meal and decided to get a large order of mac n’ cheese to go. I saw a homeless person walking a block in front of me. I watched him as he checked the parking meters for loose change. He walked out of the shadow of a building, and I realized he had a dog. I continued to follow behind him and waited for us to arrive to a populated street without other homeless nearby. Then, I called out “Sir,” and he did not respond. I walked faster to make up for my missed steps and called louder, “Excuse me, sir!” and he turned around. I expected to see an older man but a young man faced me. I could tell he was surprised by me approaching him and I said, “I’m sorry if I startled you.” I walked a few steps closer and his dog was shaking with excitement. He jumped on me, and the young man told the dog to get down. I thanked him but said I didn’t mind and petted the dog. Then, I said “I have some mac n’ cheese in here that I just bought. I didn’t eat any of it, and you’re welcome to it.” I cannot forget his expression. He was hopeful. He replied, “Are you sure?” I quickly said, “Of course. It is yours.” I handed him the bag, told him to have a good night, and petted the dog again before I walked to my hotel.
When I got into my room I called The Mister. I told him what I did, and he didn’t lecture me. He knows I follow all “stranger danger” rules, and I think my actions through. I’m sure he also realizes that I do what I do, and it is little use to say something. So, he listened to me talk about “the man.” How “the man” may have been teased with food by others as he wasn’t sure to believe me. How he didn’t respond to “Sir.” How I understood why “the man” had a dog. How much I would want companionship and how his relationship with his dog keeps him out shelters. Then, I cried. I cried a lot. It broke my heart.
I left Portland incredibly early the next morning and have thought of “the man” since. Then, yesterday, The Mister sent me an email titled “CNN Story on Pets of Homeless in Portland, Oregon” with a link to a story found on CNN.com. I read the story and was glad to hear of the work of The Pixie Project. Then, I pressed play on the video. It opened on Bigera, the dog in the story. Next, it showed her owner James.
It was “the man.” I froze and quickly called The Mister to tell him. I had a mixture of emotion. I was glad to see both James and Bigera but sad at the same time. They seem to be as good as they can be. I’m glad that Bigera is being fixed. However, their situation is still wrenching. A seemingly nice young man and a happy dog have no place to rest, no food to eat and my mac n’ cheese could only do so much.
Take care of yourself and others,