From Chicken Soup for the Soul: What I Learned from the Dog
BY: By Elaine L. Bridge
People who are homeless are not social inadequates. They are people without homes.
He looked like a little lost sheep. I saw him down the road as I pulled into my driveway. Seen from a distance his funny gait caused me to wonder just what kind of animal he was. I figured he had to be a stray dog -- one I hadn't seen in the neighborhood before.
I saw him again an hour or so later when I stepped into the garage -- he was eating our kitty's dinner, much to her obvious annoyance. He didn't even hear me approach, testifying to his advanced age. His dirty, grizzled fur of uneven length, cloudy eyes and arthritic limbs all seemed to confirm my belief that he'd traveled a long time on this earth and didn't have many miles to go before reaching his journey's end. Because of a bad leg he hopped a little with each step, causing his ears to flop and making me think of a lamb -- that and his facial markings -- a black snout surrounded by a white mask.
A broken fastener attached to his collar indicated that he'd belonged to someone at some time. Sadly, there was no identification tag. How I'd have loved to relay the message to someone that their dog had been found! I wondered how he'd come to be wandering, my imaginative mind picturing him swept away from his familiar surroundings in the recent flash flooding.
I'm not normally drawn to stray animals -- especially dogs. I fear disease, dog bites... even possible adoption and another mouth to feed. Our house is already home to more animals than humans. I didn't want to appear too friendly.
But for some reason, his pitiful appearance broke my heart. Maybe it was the way he cowered when I reached to check his collar -- I wondered what abuse he'd been subjected to in recent days. He didn't seem to be the kind of animal most homeowners would welcome around their yards and garages. Maybe it was his limp that caused me to pity him, wondering if those shaky legs would ever carry him back to the life he once knew. Or maybe it was the loss of our own old soldier just months ago -- a wound just barely healed that was reopened at the sight of a brother in similar straits -- one sure to soon walk the path our old friend had so recently trod. Even as he sniffed around the yard I couldn't get past the notion that he was looking for a place to lie down and die. He reminded me of a traveling hobo, looking for nothing more than a meal and a place to spend the night. Surely I could offer him that much.
Sometimes people are treated as poorly as the stray animals among us. I wonder how many of the homeless out on our streets have found the same reception as had this old dog. Many once had fine homes and families that loved them. But somehow they came to be lost, swept away by circumstances over which they had no control. Many of them still carry wounds of one type or another from the storms that washed them away from the lives they once knew. And now their appearances often scare away any who might be able to help. Too often these aren't the type of people we want around our homes, our lives... our churches. We fear disease. We're afraid of being hurt. We don't want to risk involvement and any possible future dependence on us that our overtures of assistance might create. And so we keep our distance, when all these fellow travelers are looking for is a meal, a place to spend the night... and maybe some direction as to how to find their way Home.
Maybe God has them cross our paths in the hope that the welcome they find in our hearts will cause them to see that which has always existed in His. After all, to Him they look a lot like little lost sheep....