I am using a book called A Place at The Table, 40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor (Chris Seay) to guide me through Lent this year. It is a thought-provoking and compelling read; I look forward to beginning my day in its pages. Through 40 essays, Seay examines what it means to be hungry. He unpacks the potential benefits of fasting in ways I had not before considered. He suggests a fast of our own design that aligns us more with the poor in the world: limiting the amount of money one spends on food for these 40 days or eating only those foods found in the poorer villages of places like Uganda and India and Brazil, for example.
This experience has me pondering hunger on many planes including the hunger of Black Dog.
Black Dog lives in a small outdoor chain-link-fenced pen next door to me. All the time. No matter the hour. No matter the weather, I can find Black Dog there. In two years of being his neighbor, I have seen his owners only once…as they poured food through the fence into his bowl.
On the coldest nights of the winter, I’ve heard him barking until well past midnight; inevitably I think of those in prison as he howls.
I wonder why they bother having a dog at all.
Right or wrong, I have a ritual of taking Black Dog meaty bones from my meals. I usually put them under my big down jacket or hoodie and cross my grass, his mud, to where he meets me at the fence. I whisper to him: I’ve got something for you today, boy.
I push the meat-enfleshed bone through the cold gray steel of the fence. He takes it gently; quietly. We are co-conspirators.
The first few times I did this, Black Dog immediately devoured the offering.
Today he takes it carefully in his teeth, places it on the hard ground. Looks back to me.
I give him another. I have a whole stack, having boiled these shank bones yesterday for soup.
He places the second next to the first. Looks to me again. Licks my outstretched hand and waits until I begin to walk away to begin his feast.
Maybe some would view this as sacrilegious, but I sense something holy about my visits to Black Dog. Life to life between a human and an isolated animal whose only ability to speak is through kisses and tail wags and eye contact.
Life to life, I feel like a good steward of these bones in what they offer this lonely creature.
Life to life, I cannot help but think as I set meat-enfleshed bones aside: the body of Cow, Black Dog, given for you.
His response feeds something deep within me.