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I Like Furry Companions.

Submitted by Cara Highsmith (Nashville, TN)

"Displaced, In Need, Can You Help?" read the message on his scrap cardboard sign, but I didn't notice it until later.

“Displaced, In Need, Can You Help?”

That was the message on his scrap cardboard sign, but I didn’t notice that until later. What caught our eye as my son and I drove by this young man on the side of the road was the desperate look on his face as he drew his dog close to him, trying to shield her from the unseasonably cold weather.

Late March in the south is unpredictable, but you typically don’t have snow flurries . . . especially after a winter nearly devoid of frigid temperatures. I had been grumpy all week due to the inclement and inappropriate climate. I soon felt silly for complaining about the chill I experienced running between the warmth of my well-insulated home and my heated car.

I took note of they man and his dog as we drove by and it made me sad. I began to search my mind to recall whether or not I still had that old blanket in my trunk that I kept in case of a breakdown, but ended up distracted by trying to navigate traffic. We went on our way to a store down the road for a couple of the things on my son’s shopping list. He was really quiet and a little sullen. I asked what was wrong. He just shrugged a response. I thought he was still a little sulky because the paycheck he deposited didn’t post immediately and he wouldn’t have money until the next day.

He decided he didn’t need the items he was out to purchase after all, but he did get some tic-tacs and got some cash with his debit card. He took the last $20 from his account that was available. The whole bank account thing is still new for him, so I thought he was just trying out the cash back feature. I watched in amusement as he completed the transaction and thought it was really cute.

On the way to the car he said, “I want to go back where that guy is.” I asked, “Which guy?” “The one with the dog.” Ah. It was beginning to come together for me. I checked the trunk and, sure enough, that blanket was there. I grabbed it and we headed back over to the corner where they were waiting. I parked the car in a nearby parking lot and let my son approach the guy on his own. He went over and introduced himself and offered the blanket and the money. They talked for a bit and he learned that the dog’s name is Hannah and that with this money they were close to being able to get a hotel room for the night. I was pleased to hear that because I checked the forecast while I was waiting and it was supposed to be quite cold for several more days.

As we drove past him, heading to our next errand, I saw that he had Hannah wrapped in the blanket and he was clutching her to his chest and crying. He looked up at us with eyes of deep gratitude that cut through all of my cynicism and apathy to the very core of my being. Eric said “Rick” told him that Hannah was his best friend. I said that for people who are “displaced” a pet can be the one connection they still have to the world, the one thing that makes them feel that all is not lost. You see, when we have someone/something else to think about besides ourselves, it makes us feel like we have some level of worth, no matter how much the world may tell us otherwise. When someone else depends on us and loves us so unconditionally it doesn’t matter how little we have, we really have all that matters.

I am so very grateful for furry companions because it is quite likely that I wouldn’t have given that young man a second look if I hadn’t noticed how diligently he was trying to take care of his dog in the midst of his desperate circumstances, and how he seemed more grateful for the protection against the elements than the few dollars we were able to give him. I am also overwhelmed with pride for the beautiful generosity of my child who felt it was more important to help out a stranger and use the last of his available funds than to satisfy his immediate desires.