Whenever I head down to the city I see the corner where I first met Hummmus and her human friend a few years ago, I always look for them. I hope that maybe I'll see that they are both safe and sound. That day I met a friend and I learned a lot of lessons.
Since then, we moved to the Seattle area and when we are packing up bags for the homeless to hand out on our adventures, I always think of them. There are a lot of homeless pets and their humans on the streets of Seattle. Sometimes I feel like they are unseen, their stories untold and that bothers me. Lost stories bother me.
Everyone has a story to tell, not everyone gets the chance to share it. I'm so glad that on that day, I was allowed to hear the story of this wandering dog named Hummmus.
The one thing about Seattle that many people don't think about is the high number of homeless people who live in the city. The population explosion of Seattle has pushed so many people out of affordable housing and onto the streets. The homeless community isn't just drug addicts, it is also good people of all ages. Military veterans and little children, people sick with cancer and hard working people who were unexpectedly faced with life changes.
It's easy to look the other way. In fact, it might even be more comfortable. But that doesn't always make it the right thing to do.
Not sure if it was mitzvah or madness, but I stopped today on my way back to the hotel and had a lovely conversation with a homeless woman and her dog, Hummmus. ( Yes, that's how she wants to spell it )
I had seen her out on the corner next to the hotel for a few days. She and a friend had been out there asking for change and most of the time I just gave her a smile and kept going. At the time we were on vacation and excited to see the aquarium or the space needle. Today my daughter noticed the shy sweet dog hidden under a blanket next to her and we stopped to talk to her.
My children grew up stopping to talk to the homeless, asking about their day, sharing our lunches. My youngest, Sara had a fondness for anyone with animals. At times she would stop our adventures and demand that my husband take someone she'd seen on the streets and give him or her a good meal at the closest restaurant.
This time was no different. Today we met someone who shared her story with us with a friendly smile. I learned that not every shelter allowed dogs, and many people like my new friend felt like in their lives they had been hurt so badly they couldn't trust other humans. But her dog was her best friend, her lifeline and often her protector. She told me of the monthly clinics where the community could bring their pets for shots, check-ups, food, and even leashes and harnesses to keep them safe.
The woman, (who asked not to have her name mentioned) was so proud of her dog, Hummmus.. with the extra M because she is so special. This hero dog never left her and knew how important she was to this women. Hummmus often rode around in a homemade backpack, she knew how to get small so she could be tucked in a bag to ride on the bus, and she faithfully stayed close to her camp.
We talked about casual things from walking our dogs to bragging about our kids. We laughed and enjoyed the ease of conversation without worry of the social barriers that often pull people apart.
Later in the day, after a day at the Market where we searched high and low for something special to bring back to Hummmus, we met them again and laughed as Hummmus graciously accepted the organic peanut-butter handmade cookies from the fancy stand in the Pike Market and the new leash we also had to have.
This woman told me that she had a son many years ago and she wondered if she would ever see him again. Then she gently reached over to her dog, perhaps for a moment needing the comfort that only Hummmus could give. Today more than treats and leashes, I wanted to give this moment my time and understanding. I wanted her to know that she was seen, she was heard, and she was not forgotten.
My daughter listened to every word, while watching this little dog who introduced us to a woman with new stories to tell. I know Sara learned something that day and it was worth every minute.
Hummmus reminded me of my dog Wynter, both girls are not too fond of strangers but would gladly put their lives in danger to keep us safe. Living on the streets, this woman depended on Hummmus to keep her safe.
The woman wasn't asking me for money and I wasn't judging her for her choices in life. We were simply two women on the street who love dogs. Good luck my friend, safe travels to you and Hummus.
(repost from 2012)