“A bone to the dog is not charity. Charity is the bone shared with the dog, when you are just as hungry as the dog.” —Jack London

img_20160929_194119163I run a small foundation in North Louisiana, providing services ranging from handing out pantry style food items to struggling families, feeding and passing out hygiene items to our homeless community, and even stopping to feed the occasional stray pet I run across. Most of the time, I could write an article off of every single encounter, but I choose to move on to the next adventure my foundation provides me. Tonight, I can’t help but share a story from the daily grind of The Foundation Project, I hope you enjoy. Or as we say in Louisiana, I hope ya’ll enjoy.

My new partner calls me the dog whisperer. I tend to have strays show up at or around my house randomly, as I have fed countless in the past. It’s almost as if they get a belly full, get rubbed on a little, and head off back into the woods to tell all of their little dog friends of the weird old guy with a backpack full of food and treats. Even the rough one’s calm down around me, at least long enough to chomp down on the bacon flavored chunks of meat that smell so much like real bacon I’ve tried some myself.

img_20160929_193948035About a year ago, a miniature short haired dachshund showed up in puppy form, obviously abandoned and starving. I kept him around the house for a few weeks while I fed and cleaned him up, just to make sure he could handle himself if he decided to break free in the world again. He took to the food, cleaned up well, and actually was a good enough looking puppy that a couple with two girls down the street adopted him and gave him a great home. Since his move, he has gotten out of the fence many times only to run down to my house again and play, which is a really cool feeling knowing he remembers me and what I did. Anyway, enough about him for a minute.

I have been tracking a very old black lab, severely greyed and full of skin problems. He would emerge from the wood line from time to time, but never would get close enough for me to take a look or give the old dog a bone. Tonight would prove otherwise, as I decided to don my backpack when I got home and hike just to get used to the weight again.

He was waiting for me down the street and gave me the opportunity to break open the pack and gather some food for him. He was very gentle, taking the first two or so treats from my hand with care. I broke out the fancy feast, one a porterhouse flavor and the other a chicken and salmon flavor, and he lapped it down while I took pictures of his skin issues so I could get some advice on helping him. I spent close to half an hour with him, as he laid down beside me after eating, even letting me pet him on the head. He wouldn’t let me go past his neck, almost as if he was embarrassed about his condition, and I didn’t push the issue.

As I began to gather my stuff back in my bag, the little dachshund appeared out of nowhere as if he was defending his castle. Teeth drawn, slobber spitting with every bark, he was telling the old black lab to get out of his area of operations.

img_20160929_194012092At first, I just thought that it was an ordinary dog pissing match, and I walked 40 or 50 feet away to calm the little guy. He stopped immediately, tail began to wag, and he went to his back so that I could scratch his belly once again. A minute or so later, I started back to grab my pack, and he went back to showing his little dog complex. After multiple times of the same thing, I actually found it quite amusing that he was jealous because of me. Two dogs fighting over me, well, maybe just one as the old lab I now call Methuselah basically growled just enough as to say “leave me alone little dude, I just want to chill. I am much too old to be playing your games.” Even with that thought, they still fought over me, and that made me feel good if just for a few minutes.

I hope to run into Methuselah again in the next few days, this time alone with no other dogs who love me more than they should, or love the food that is in my backpack more than they should, or love the fact that a human actually cares about them. Maybe I can help him a little more with each meeting, and learn something from a furry old friend.

“Ever consider what our dogs must think of us? I mean, here we come back from a grocery store with the most amazing haul, chicken, pork, half a cow. They must think we’re the greatest hunters on earth!”
Anne Tyler

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