I love taking a long walk around the neighborhood. There are lots of different smells by the sidewalks, and even more in the park. Plenty of places to pee and kids to watch on the playground. And my favorite part is walking down to the shopping center – the smells from the restaurants are great, and sometimes there is a morsel or two of food on the ground. If I am really quick, I can get it in my mouth before my Mom sees me.
The other day we were walking by the Ralphs super market, past the area with the outdoor tables and chairs for the employees to eat their meals.
There were a bunch of men sitting at the tables, and one of them came over to pet me. His breathe smelled kind of funny – something I didn’t recognize. Mom said it was alcohol. (Note to self: Not my favorite odor).
I already knew these men were “homeless,” as my Mom and I had talked about this before. She told me I had been homeless at one time, so I think I kind of relate to them.
One of the men came up to my Mom and asked what my name was and if he could pet me. When someone asks about me, she always says the same thing – “His name is Jon Stewart, but I call him Stewie. He came off of the streets of West Los Angeles.” And she always lets the “homeless” people pet me. She told me once that sometimes that is the only act of kindness they get in a day.
This particular homeless man petted me, and then he stopped and looked at my Mom. He said to her “Please don’t ever make fun of your dog, or call him names, or treat him badly.” He went on to say “Cause I know what it is like to have people make fun of you and hurt your feelings.”
My Mom started to get tears in her eyes – like she does when she is watching a sad movie on television. She turned to the man and said “That’s good advice, and thank you for sharing it with me. It’s good to be reminded of these things.”
As we started to walk home, the same man yelled at us. “Mam, you seem like a nice lady. Would you like to be in a movie we are making?”
My mom stopped and asked what the name of the movie was going to be. He said “The Outsiders.” My Mom chuckled and said “You know, sometimes it’s good to be an outsider.”
As we were walking away, my Mom decided to stop and turn back to talk to the men one last time. She said “Let me know when you start shooting that film – I would fit right in!” We continued on walking, and I stopped to look back.
The man with the smelly breathe was smiling and crying at the same time. I think they were “happy” tears.
This encounter made me do some dog-thinking (yes, dogs do think).
I don’t understand a lot of things about humans.
It seems to me that people are not so different from dogs. It’s pretty simple – everyone wants to be loved and acknowledged. We need to know that our existence is important, no matter what our circumstances.
I feel like a lucky little guy, yet sometimes I do feel bad that dogs are sometimes treated better than people.
Maybe the world would be a better place if everyone had a taste of homelessness, so they would appreciate what they have, and know what it’s like not to have anything.
But then what do I know.
I’m just a dog!