When bootstraps fail

Last night, a man brought his beloved dog to the police station. He had no other option but to surrender the dog, as he could not find any place he could afford to live with his well-behaved, sweet pit bull. He’d brought along his dog’s toys and veterinary records for whomever might adopt his dog. He was weeping uncontrollably.

That’s all the information I have, other than that the dog was transported to the animal shelter.

It was yet another “There but for the grace of God go I” moment for me. I well remember living on less than 8K a year during grad school. My first stop on payday was to the bank to deposit my check. Next stop was the junk yard for whatever part I needed to keep my piece of trash car running (seriously… I’d paid $100 for it: rotted floorboards, holey gas tank and all). Then to the pharmacy to refill my dog’s prescription for her epilepsy medication. If I didn’t work as a deli wench at night, I wouldn’t have had money for gasoline or food, but I made sure my dog ate, albeit grocery store cheap dog food. Even if I’d known better at the time, I’d still not have been able to afford decent food for her. I was lucky to have been renting a house where I could keep my dog. My rent for the whole house was less than I ever spent on any other housing I ever had (even one room apartments) and my grande dame landladies never raised the rent on me in 10 years.

But I was half a step away from ruin during those last years of grad school. Burning the candle at both ends AND the middle. I managed to complete my degree and move on, but I will never forget the absolute desperation of those days. I think if I didn’t have my dog, or if I had been forced by circumstances to give her up, it might well have been the end for me. The fear of her being left alone AGAIN (she’d been a rescue) was enough to keep me pulling myself up by the bootstraps.

I weep for that poor guy. I know his heart was breaking. I’ll bet he even thought about ending his own life.  I remember the hopelessness I know he felt. I wish for all the world that via some Deus ex machina he and his dog could be reunited in a secure situation.

Once you’ve overcome poverty, you learn a few things: you know it can happen to anyone, good friends and laughter are more valuable than gold, and you aren’t afraid of much… except losing your dog.

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