My name is Beth Green. I own a pet sitting and dog walking company here in Louisville, KY and I have always loved companion animals and their people.
Living in my safe, comfortable suburban bubble, I was pretty naive about homelessness. Sure...I'd seen panhandlers here and there but had no idea that true homelessness exists here in my beautiful, small hometown of Louisville, KY.
But homelessness DOES exist in Louisville. The lastest (2015) census shows that there are 7,300 homeless men, women and children in Louisville, Kentucky alone. Some are temporarily homeless and some have been homeless for years.
Homelessness can exist in every city and town. In a single night, over 575,000 people are homeless across America.
On a beautiful, warm Indian Summer day in August of 2013 my heart was changed forever. I took my (then) 17 year old son Jacob to lunch at an restaurant with outdoor patio seating. We chose to eat outside to enjoy the sunshine.
We had just sat down with our food when a shirtless, raggedy-looking young homeless man with his companion-dog (wearing a home-made rope collar that was actually trailing behind him) sat down on a park bench not too far from us. The dog sat at the young man’s feet, tail thumping happily between his legs, looking lovingly at his Master. I watched as the young man leaned down and petted his dog and whispered words of endearment to it.
The man had dreadlocks. They were both dirty. They were both skinny. I immediately started to stereotype...to judge. They both looked very hungry, but he wasn't begging or asking for food. He was actually whistling if I remember correctly, and searching for cigarette butts that he could smoke.
Without even a word my son got up and took his lunch over to the young man and offered it to him. Fist bumps ensued. He sat and talked with him as if he was his equal. He showed kindness and compassion to to him and treated him no different than he would have one of his friends. The man accepted the food and ever so humbly thanked Jacob. To my complete surprise, before he took ONE bite of the food he was given he tore half off and gave it to his dog.
He fed his dog first.
That was the first time I had paid attention to the real "face" of homelessness. My eyes were opened and so was my heart.
To this day I don't know who that young man was, or what his circumstances were. I never saw him again and I've looked for years for him. All I knew is that he was someone's son, brother or father. He was certainly loved and adored by his dog and the feeling seemed mutual. Knowing what I know now that little dog was probably the only true source of unconditional love and friendship that he had at that time...or maybe ever.
Maybe he was an angel sent to help me be a better person.
He will be forever burned into my mind, and the selflessness of my son and the love of a homeless stranger for his faithful companion is part of the inspiration behind "My Dog Eats First".