The rain was miserable. It was gray and misty in between bursts of heavy downpours. It got into every crevice. I was just as grumpy as the weather. My coat was wet. I was overloaded with stuff to do. I was not feeling very Christmasy. When I saw Duke, he was soaked.
I got off work early to finish Christmas Eve errands. I had tight list. If I played my cards right, I could check them all off. I drove past Duke and immediately saw how out of place he was. He was trotting at a brisk pace but his head and tail were down. He was wet and scared and lost.
I sighed and pulled over. My emergency blinkers reflected on the rain slicked streets. I got out of the car and slowly walked towards him with my hands out where he could see them.
Duke was an elderly golden lab. He had a collar and was obviously well cared for. Yet he balked. I was a stranger. He turned his head towards the street. I stopped and spoke to him in soothing tones. Behind me way the expressway – a death sentence for dogs. Beside me was Irving Road – 4 lanes of hell.
Duke let me approach him. I petted him and cooed over him. I wanted him to hear that he was safe. There were no houses by the sidewalk, only a field. Duke had a tag with 2 numbers on it. I coaxed him into the backseat of my car so he could dry off.
I turned the car around and found a residential section facing Irving that would be safe to make a few phone calls. Duke started shivering so I cranked up the heat.
The first number lead nowhere. It was disconnected. The second number picked up instantly. I told the man on the other end that I had Duke in the back of my car and where we were parked. The owner was driving around searching for him. He was only 1/2 a mile away. I turned on my emergency lights again and waited.
Duke’s owner explained that his neighbor had left their back gate open when returning a leaf blower. Duke got out that morning. We shook hands and bid each other farewell.
When I was a kid, dogs roamed the streets regularly. Dogs did not live long. They were shot by farmers, attacked my wild animals or laid out by infection. Diseases ran rampate. The Humane Society started an aggressive campaign to encourage spay and neutering of pets. It worked. The population is getting slowly under control and now it is unusual to see a homeless dog walking the streets.
This is not the case for humans. Our economy has run us ragged. Big business, taking advantage of our 2% tariffs, have brought manufacturing overseas and then sell their slave made wares to desperate Americans who have to scramble to find these deals since they do not have a living wage job. Wall Street bankers rifled through our treasury to take what they wanted. Mass media does its level best to lay the results of the sins of the rich on the backs of the poor. It’s a mess.
I keep pre-made bags of usable goods for unhoused citizens that beg on street corners. They have basic hygiene items (comb, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, sanitizer), 1st aid supplies (bandages, wipes, tylenol), food (granola bars, nuts, dried fruit, tea, water) and warming supplies (gloves, socks, hand warmers) in a t-shirt style plastic bag. I also have information on where to get help.
I drove to the bank and saw a panhandler on the side of the road. I pulled over and walked up to him slowly. We chatted for a while. I gave him the bag and explained the resources. He looked relieved.
He opened up and told me he was sleeping on a dock at night. He had an infection but did not know where to go for help. Without proper medical treatment, food and rest, his infection was not going to get better.
He wanted to know where to get water regularly. He asked me if there were other places for food. I gave him some resource ideas along with the bag. I encouraged him to visit our free clinic for medical attention and food. He shook my hand warmly and thanked me for my help. We bade each other a merry Christmas and I walked back to my car.
I knew that my little errands were not going to get done. Time was running out before stores closed. I had the basics already. It wasn’t really that important.
To me, the holidays with Christmas, winter solstice and New Year’s Day all bundled together is about the coming of the light. It is about hope and renewal. It is about realigning perspective. Both Duke and the unhoused man I spoke to were more important than buying more stuff. That knowledge felt good. It took the misery out of the weather. It brought me back to warm place deep inside where even the rain couldn’t seep in.