A look back. It was a few days this side of last Christmas. Portland weather was brutal, everyone was cold and getting colder. Tents popped up pretty much everywhere. Doorways, curbs, sidewalks. He had his gear set up and now he was helping someone else set up their tent. That person was older, steadied by a walker, holding tight while simultaneously trying to weave a well-used plastic tarp onto the opening to his tent, or what might have once been a tent and was now only part of a tent. The wind flurried the tarp like a kite, while he also held tight to his walker, thus the need for more hands. The younger man jumped in to help, his dog danced alongside.
The moment I got there the older man turned to me out of the blue and said “some duct tape would be nice.” I had some in my car and grabbed it; it was silver grey, the basic color. The older man had a crisp sense of humor, and thanked me for not carrying bright yellow duct tape. He said when you’re on the street you don’t want weird colored duct tape. Then he laughed.
The dog that danced was a mocha colored wiggle butt pit bull. He tried to help, biting at the fluttering tarp. The man said the dog was 12 but still thought he was a puppy. How long had they been together? The whole time, he said.
He bought him from a box to give him a chance and it was the best thing he’d ever done. This dog just beamed one of those side-to-side full face smiles that only Pibbles can smile; he knew he was loved. And when I went to pet him he swallowed my hand in one giant slurp like only Pibbles can do, he just decided my hand was perfect for gumming like his most favorite toy. But it was the way he did it; it could not have been more gentle.
I wanted to do something for them, something more than the half-used roll of duct tape. I’d given out all my gear to others, all I had left was money in my pocket. I was ok with that, there’s so many things that people on the streets need money for, the same things that you and I do. But when you have no money, it means even more. The older man happily accepted; he thanked me graciously and tucked it into his wallet which I could see held no other money.
When I started to hand money to the younger man, he declined. He said he didn’t want to owe me anything and asked if I would instead donate the money to someone else who needed it more. Then he suddenly said, “WAIT, I’ve got an idea.” He started to rummage through his gear, talking while he rummaged, he said there was this place that helps him, he could not remember the name but had something with their information. He pulled back out of his tent and held up a bag to show me and asked if I’d donate the money to them. He went on and on about this group, how much they’d helped him.
He read me the name on the bag: The Pongo Fund.
It was another one of those moments when I knew that Pongo, Scooby, each one of you and so many more were right there with me, beaming. And maybe that’s why his sweet dog friend had been smiling so big the whole time, why he kissed me with so many gentle kisses; because he knew my Pongo secret. When I got there I thought they needed everything. Then I realized they already had it all.
I stopped by a couple of days later with a quick drive by to say hello and gave him a couple of nondescript brown shopping bags. One for the older man with the walker and one for him. The one for him had more Pongo dog food, some treats, a gift card to a nearby grocer, socks, a hat and some dog gear. And separately I handed him a printed receipt from The Pongo Fund. He asked me what that was for; I reminded him that he’d asked me to donate some money to The Pongo Fund and so I did. My donation was made in his name. He smiled a smile he didn’t expect to smile, and he said thank you.
He said he didn’t have anything for me, except a hand shake. I told him that was perfect.
Being a helper.
And this is why we Pongo.
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***The Pongo Fund is Oregon’s Pet Food Bank. Because hungry people have hungry pets. Our award winning and volunteer driven group helps more animals than any other group in Oregon by providing high quality food and vital veterinary care for the family pets of anyone in honest need, keeping them safe, healthy and out of the shelters. 100,000 animals helped; 10,000,000 healthy meals provided. We would be honored if you SHARE this post so that others will also know of our good work***