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They Were Hungry Together

When the end of the month begins in the middle of the month?

When the 28th is now the 15th?

What do you do then?

The answer?

You eat when he doesn’t.

And he eats when you don’t.

Maybe every other night. Those are the good nights. You celebrate each other’s full tummy, even when only one of you has it.

She said when you get older, you eat less. She’s 84. So according to every statistic, she’s older. But she’s still hungry.

“But don’t you dare feel sorry for me because I know a lot of people right here in my building who have less.”

That every other night meal. The one where they celebrate each other’s full bellies.

It’s not her husband. He’s been gone for 20 years.

It’s her cat.

It’s been going on this way for a while. Used to start around the 28th. There were just a few days end of month where they had no money and no food. So whatever they had, they both ate.

A bowl of noodles.

A can of tuna.


They ate what they had.

Ten minutes into the conversation and she had not complained once. And she’d not complained once because of all those other people who have less.

She just learned about The Pongo Fund. She said she was glad to find us now. But I’ll only need you once, I’ll get this figured out, she said.

She lived simply in a low-income, rent subsidized apartment. She said she’d been there for several years and she loved it. She waited a long time to get to this building and now that she was there, she said she never wanted to leave.

Her cat was 15 and she wanted to make sure he had more food. That’s why she called. They were both hungry but she was mostly hungry for him.

She asked if I knew that you could hear a cat’s empty tummy rumbling at night. She said it was an awful sound. She said he never complained. He never tried to take her food. She loved him very much.

His name was Henry.

The call lasted longer than it needed to only because I kept pausing. I would put the phone down and wipe my eyes. On the other hand, this call could have gone for three hours and it still wouldn’t have been long enough.

We got all the info we needed. Henry loved pate most of all but stew was good too. Tuna was his favorite, chicken close behind. She also brushed his teeth so if we had a tiny toothbrush she would appreciate it. I thought about the tiny toothbrushes from my dentist and how happy I would be to send one her way.

We sent her 48 cans of cat food. Henry will eat.

But she will still be hungry.

Say what you will, but no one should go to bed hungry. Especially not at 84.

I called one of The Pongo Fund’s crackerjack volunteers. When I called her she saw my number and she answered, “Emergency Kibble Response Team.”

She always knows.

This woman lived close to her. If I got her 48 cans of cat food could she get them delivered. Of course, she said.

I said there’s one more thing.

She said there always is.

She’s been doing this work with us for a few years now, she knows the drill.

And she repeated to me what I was just going to say.

“Hungry people have hungry pets.”

The Pongo Fund has been saying it and living it since Day One.

And every time I say it, it’s true. Please don’t ever forget it. Because hunger hits everyone around the dinner table.

So our Emergency Kibble Response Team (EKRT) Volunteer already knew that before she delivered Henry’s dinner, she needed to do some shopping for Henry’s Mom’s dinner. And this woman, our volunteer, she lives for those moments.

One time when she delivered food to an older gentleman he mentioned how much he missed his wife’s lasagna. So of course the next day there she was with a giant tray of lasagna all portioned out into small freezer totes so he could do the lasagna dance for many days to come.

Have I ever told you about The Pongo Fund volunteers?

They are AWESOME!

She finished her shopping and delivered the food to Henry’s Mom. Henry’s Mom waiting in the lobby with the community shopping cart to ferry things up to her apartment. She knew she was getting cat food. She didn’t know anything else.

As it was explained to me, Henry’s Mom was blindsided when one bag, two bags, three bags, four bags of groceries wedged into the cart. With two cases of cat food sitting proudly on top. She did not understand what was going on and when she did, she broke out in tears.

Others in the lobby came to check on her. This woman, she was a giant in her building and when others saw her cry they immediately came to see what was wrong.

Except nothing was wrong and everything was right.

A few moments went by until our EKRT Volunteer explained what the groceries were for. They are for you, she said. So now you and Henry can both have dinner tonight.

Henry’s Mom pushed her cart over to a table and began to unpack the bags in the lobby. She was so stunned that she wanted to see each item, to touch each item.

And then she did what hungry 84 year-old women do.

She began to gift her groceries to others who she knew were also hungry.

We’ve seen it before and we’ll see it again.

And when it happens you step back and fight your tears that will pour out later. But you never tell the person you just gifted groceries too that they should not regift them to others.

Because a bag of groceries brings joy to more than just the receiver.

Our EKRT Volunteer got a ton of joy from her shopping. And now Henry’s Mom was overcome with joy seeing all the groceries for her. And now everyone in her building found their joy too, as they received a tub of cream cheese or package of frozen raspberries or quart of half and half or small jar of 21 spice herb mix and they walked away with those items as if they were carrying the Crown Jewels.

Four bags of groceries. Many happy people.

Even some of Henry’s food was given away for other hungry cats.

But all that news came to me second. When I say second, I mean it wasn’t the first thing I heard from our EKRT Volunteer.

No, the first thing I heard was something like, “I think we have a problem and I’ll need to go back again.”

A problem?

What happened?

And then I pretty much fell on the floor as the moment was recounted to me.

I’ve been the EKRT Volunteer a few times myself. It is both a joyous and heartbreaking experience. It’s not for everyone but most people who do it once can’t wait to do it again.

Yet every time I hear the stories, it still floors me.

For The Pongo Fund, it’s just how it goes.

Joy. Heartbreak.

Just another day.

For Henry and Henry’s Mom.

Everyone has dinner.

And this is why we Pongo.

Sit. Stay. Eat. Live.

The Pongo Fund / Portland, Oregon