I was walking my little dog, Lucy, down in The Cove when the dog struck up an acquaintance with another little dog.
The man holding the other dog’s leash engaged me in conversation. At first it was about our dogs and their pedigrees. Mine’s a purebred min pin; his pup, who was adorable, was part Chihuahua and part something else, maybe Pomeranian. He said his dog was about a year-and-a-half old; he got him as an itty-bitty thing. He said when he got the dog, it fit in the palm of his hand. “He was the biggest one in his litter and they gave me the pick of the litter,” he said. “He also was the only one that was independent and willing to separate himself from the pack.”
As the dogs continued sniffing each other and tangling their leashes, the man and I continued talking. He seemed to be in his 30s. He was neat and clean. Before very long he brought up work saying he’d been a job trainer at a national fast food chain. He told me he’d come to the Coast to work as a cook at Camp Rilea, but they’d recently cut him loose, saying there was less work this time of year. He said he had been out of work for two weeks and he was starting to worry.
I asked him if he liked this area and if he intended to stay. I guessed he was probably living in a pet-friendly month-to-month rental, but if he ran out of money, he would have to leave. Having come here myself a few years ago as a renter with pets, I know the difficulty of finding affordable housing period, let alone housing that accepts pets.
He told me he’d come to Oregon via Oklahoma. He was originally from the South. I could detect a slight southern accent. I asked if he liked to surf and he said he had a wetsuit but the water here was too cold for him. He was also, I thought wisely, wary of the current. I asked him if he’s spent a winter yet in Seaside and he said, “No, ma’am, but I hear it’s rainy and cold and I’m a person more used to warm weather.”
I mentioned I’d seen help wanted signs at McDonald’s. I mentioned other local restaurants that might be looking for a cook. He said a lot of places were hiring but only part time and that he would have to work two or more jobs to get the hours he needed to sustain himself and his dog. As he spoke, I thought about all the people I’d met since moving here who are working two or more jobs that don’t offer health insurance and how the line between who has enough and who doesn’t grows thinner by the moment. This man wanted to work. He was sober and his clothes were clean. He had wheels. He wasn’t looking for a handout.
I repeated the places where I’d seen help wanted signs. I suggested he read the classified ads in the Signal and The Daily Astorian, both of which he could find at the public library in Seaside. I suggested maybe he could get work in a hotel.
It was time to move on. I said goodbye and good luck. Directing his gaze to the cross that hangs around my neck, my new acquaintance said, very sincerely, “Thank you, ma’am. Please pray for me.”
That was more than a week ago. I keep on walking in the Cove, but I haven’t seen him or the dog since. This morning as I was hanging laundry on the line — and really what has been more glorious than this Indian Summer weather? — I thought of the man and his dog. And yes, I did pray for him.