One of the reasons I had to leave Chicago was sorrow overwhelm. There were so many homeless people: old people, families, mothers with babies, children. It became more than I could bear. I tried to help with money and donations. I hope it did help someone, but it did not help me. My anxiety swelled as winter approached. I anguished over what would happen with the homeless people I knew, the ones I saw every day, and bought cigarettes, coffee, lunch.
Once I let a homeless couple move in with us. Felipe didn’t think it would help them. He was right. They needed a lot more than a room and bath. I couldn’t give them self-worth, social skills to function in the job market, or the tools to overcome addiction.
Where I live there are many people living in poverty, though very few with no home. I feel sad about the cobbled houses, and kids with one pair of shoes that are way too big. I help when I can; knowing it’s not enough. It’s a gift that no one has a winter to endure.
One sticky situation I have gotten myself into is with the dogs. There was for years an abundance of painfully thin, sick, and dying dogs in my neighborhood. I was unable not to help any emaciated dog that showed up on my patio.
There are more concerns about feeding them than their health. These dogs are not strays. They are my neighbor’s property. By feeding them I am communicating to my neighbors: you don’t take care of your animals, you are poor, I’m so rich I can feed everyone’s dog, but not their children, and dogs are more important to me than people. What is anyone to make of this really? I don’t know what to think of it myself, other than, if emaciated children ever show up for breakfast I would certainly feed them.
Once we had a dog named Lucas. He was so ill when he came to me, he had a hole to the bone in his leg that was eaten by maggots. Felipe nursed him and he became a beautiful, wonderful companion. Then we were told he had an owner and they wanted him back. Felipe refused to give him back, but when we traveled Lucas would return to his old home. So, we took dog food and paid them to dog sit for us. This was Felipe’s way of negotiating to keep him.
Every morning four of my neighbor’s dogs come for breakfast. Capi was the first. He was so thin I couldn’t believe he was able to walk. He’s eaten breakfast here for three years now. He is owned by an older woman, and when he’s with her and sees me on the street he acts like he doesn’t know me. I’m thankful for that.
I’m happy to say there has been a large effort made to sterilize and vaccinate dogs in our area. And, there seems to have been a shift in the belief system about feeding household animals. I don’t see as many suffering dogs as I did when we first moved to Las Lajas.
There isn’t a moral here. I don’t have any advice. Sometimes I can’t help but help. I cross my fingers every morning hoping there won’t be another I can’t deny.
What would you do?