Austin’s homeless, and their dogs, bake in summer heat

If you live here in Austin, or in any city of decent size for that matter, you’ve likely seen them recently.

Hot.

Thirsty.

Sweaty.

Exhausted.

Hopeless?

I have a major soft spot for two groups of people: the homeless and veterans, and unfortunately the two too often describe the same person. Summer has to be a rougher time than usual for our city’s homeless, as there seems to be no escape for them from the oppressive Texas heat.

Temperatures often hit or come close to 100 degrees here in Central Texas, and although most of us can duck inside our homes, cars or places of employment to be in air conditioning, that is often not an option for the homeless—and their dogs.

Some of those I see begging on the side of the road and at intersections or trying to thumb a ride have canine companions, and as hot as it must be for people, those dogs, with their built-in fur coats, must be absolutely miserable. Yet they seem to stay with their homeless owners who likely can’t offer them much. Why?

Unconditional love.

Dogs don’t care if you have a job, home, money or social status. They don’t care if you have no clothing, prospects or friends. All you have to do is feed a dog, give it water and keep it safe, and that dog will reward you with more companionship than your own shadow.

Try and find a person who can do that. There aren’t many.

Dogs don’t care if you have a job,home, money or social status.

At the suggestion of a friend, I sometimes keep grocery bags containing socks, underwear, travel toiletries and even a clean plastic cup in my car, and I give the bags to homeless folks when I encounter them. This summer I encourage you to do the same. Adding in a bottle of water or a small bag of dog food would be good, too, in case a homeless person you encounter has a dog.

Our mayor says he wants City Council to take steps by the end of the year to try to end veteran homelessness, which is a commendable goal for any city, especially one the size of Austin. I don’t know if we’ll ever, as a city or society, be able to house and clothe all of those in need, but we can always try.

Let’s not forget about our dogs, either.

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