Pets provide us so much companionship and love and joy, and especially to those who are experiencing homelessness.
A pet can be the steady and grounding influence in their lives.
Whilst others ignore and avoid them and refuse to meet their eye, they have a friend who thinks of them as a king.
And sometimes they give them a reason to celebrate when much looks bleak.
Meet Choco José Luis Matos, or Choco.
Beautiful, sweet Choco.
A young couple was meandering through the park in the Cabecera neighbourhood in Barranquilla, Bucaramanga, Colombia taking pictures, when they came across Choco on the steps in the park, with his two dogs, Shaggy and Nena.
The two were wearing party hats whilst Choco pulls out a cake from a plastic bag, lights two candles and sings “Happy Birthday” whilst kissing and stoking them.
And then serves his friends slices before tasting it himself.
And, at times, weeping.
Seems it was Shaggy’s second birthday, and it was indeed reason to celebrate and honour his friends.
I know, right?
Who here can’t relate?
After witnessing the celebration, the couple engaged Choco and asked him about his life.
He left… escaped... a very abusive home several years before and has been homeless ever since.
But despite the overwhelming challenges, he always made sure that his friends were taken care of to the best of his ability.
After getting his permission, they released the video on social media, and of course it went viral, with millions of views. .
It struck such a chord with so many who felt compelled to help the family.
Many descended on the park, where the three spent much time, and they donated money, food, clothes and supplies, veterinarian and optometrist services and the like to the grateful trio.
But the real game changer was when one animal lover gave him a phone, and paid for a monthly plan for it, and then helped him activate an Instagram account.
With over 200,000 followers and counting, Choco, Shaggy and Nena are homeless no more.
And it’s all thanks to the gratefulness and love and dedication and sweetness that he showed for his dogs.
And the gratefulness and love and dedication and sweetness of the community at large who felt compelled to show their gratitude and give thanks.
Back in the day, I did social work, and observed that more often then not, those homeless souls with dogs or cats as companions held on to reality…. to life… much more than those without.
They took better care of their pets then they did themselves, making sure that their companions were taken care of.
To hold it together.
Grateful for such a devoted, steadfast warm friend in an often cold and cruel world.
The loving sage and mystic Paramahamsa Ramakrishna was often observed by his devotees and western observers whilst in samadhi.
Once, when returning back and coming to, whilst looking upwards with tears in his eyes, beseeched God by saying, “Mother, please, when I pass this mortal coil, please please please send me back down as a dog so I can serve just one lost soul.”
So every time I see a homeless person with a dog, I think to myself,
‘Is that you, Paramahamsa?
I see you.