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You see them every day beside the road--a man in dirty fatigues begging with a hand-drawn sign and, beside him, a dog. In passing, you might wonder why a person who cannot take care of himself subjects a dog to such a hard life. You might even condemn the man for selfishness and pity the dog.

Darin and his dog at the Street Dawgs & Cats Care Fair.
People who are homeless have pets for many of the same reasons the housed do; however, sometimes they have reasons that transcend those of companionship.

During the early days of Occupy, we engaged with the homeless community where I met Kathy and her dachshund, Happy. That friendship gave me to a deeper understanding of the special relationship between those without shelter and their pets and led me to do something for this special population.

Happy with his new toy from the Free Store.
I organized the first Street Dawgs & Cats Care Fair three years ago. The Shelter Medicine Student Club at the Veterinary School loved the idea. I found another group, Advocates for Pets of the Homeless, which advocated for these pet owners and arranged for mentoring relationships. I found a grant online with the national Pets of the Homeless organization. We have these fairs twice a year--Spring and Fall--and just had our fifth one this past May.

That is where I met Darin and his Pit Bull. An Iraq veteran, Darin retains a military bearing and alertness. Like many of our veterans, he struggles with PTSD and credits his dog with helping him heal. His dream now is to train dogs to help other veterans as he has been helped.

Another man I met had a life changing event centered on his dog, also a Pit Bull. He had been arrested, cuffed and put in a police car--all in front of his dog. He vividly recalled his feelings of deep shame, realizing that he was the only person whom his dog depended upon and he had let him down. He resolved to clean himself up for the sake of his dog and has since secured full-time employment and is staying on someone's couch.

This is an open thread so write about your own dog or whatever you want. I will close out this diary with a few photos from our event. (Sorry about the size. Am having trouble resizing them.)

A new coat from the Free Store deserves a kiss!
UPDATE: DocDawg has made the suggestion that I offer readers an opportunity to donate to this work. The national non-profit organization from which we receive a grant to fund this work is the Pets of the Homeless. It is a reputable organization and has guidelines to giving our grants. Their website has a wealth of information for those wishing to do this work in their own communities. We are lucky to have a Veterinarian College in town but volunteer vets would work just the same. Private message me if you want more information on how our local clinic works.

Originally posted to Street Prophets on Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 01:01 PM PDT.

Also republished by PWB Peeps.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Never take away a dog from a homeless person (10+ / 0-)

    or a vet unless he agrees to it.

    I have to make a decision to offer my dog for adoption. we, my son (a vet) and me, got five years ago. My son said it was the best thing in his life we ever did to get this dog. We have also learned how difficult it is with a dog to do certain things dogless people never think about. I don't know if I should judge the fact that my son said it might be better to let our dog go to a new family, as a positive sign that he isn't that much dependent on some dog love anymore, or not.

    I feel like completely defeated to let the dog go. It makes me angry, on the other hand I know for what we have to do, it is necessary to let the dog go... probably.  I still have the dog up for adoption, but being my own dog's foster parent. I think my dog senses it. I am still not at the point that I really can let her go.

    We know a hell of a lot, but we understand very little. Manfred Max-Neef

    by mimi on Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 01:32:10 PM PDT

    •  Tears running down my face. (7+ / 0-)

      If I could, I would take your dog and be sure you had visits with her. I am so very sorry that you have to let his dog be adopted.

      Is this a financial problem? If so, I am sure that we at DK can help out.

      Please message me. P

      “Listen--are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?” ― Mary Oliver

      by weezilgirl on Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 02:57:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  So sorry, mimi. (7+ / 0-)

      Sounds like you don't have a good handle on why your son can go dogless now. And it sounds like you would prefer to keep the dog.

      I know what you mean about having a dog complicating your life. I have a special needs dog and it is difficult to get out of town with my husband and find someone to care for her. (She is old and blind and a real rascal!)

      We have it within our power to make the world over again ~ Thomas Paine

      by occupystephanie on Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 04:27:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Please contact a local (4+ / 0-)

      all breed rescue or rescue specific to your dog as quickly as possible.

      Talk to them about what you're facing.

      The thing is, the older a dog is, the harder is it to place them in a new family.

      And if your dog senses that she's not wanted, then it may be even harder for her to bond with and trust her new family.

      Not all families are meant to own dogs. In fact, I wish many wouldn't. I don't say that to be cruel. I say the same thing about people who have children (and I don't have kids.) Some people shouldn't.

      But putting the dog's needs ahead of your own IS part of being a dog owner. A rescue can assist you with placing her with a new family if that's what you decide. They will likely ask you to keep her until a new family is found (because there are dogs in dire situations who really need the limited space they DO have), but most will help you find a new family by advertising her on their website, helping you with screening potential owners, etc.  

      Not everyone who wants a dog will be a great match for YOUR dog. With the assistance of a rescue, you can find one who will be while avoiding people who SEEM like nice people but aren't.

      Good luck mimi.  This seems like a very difficult situation.  But honestly, sometimes, the very best thing we can do for dogs is finding them a home where every single hair on their furry bodies is cherished.  I wish you peace in arriving at the right decision.

      © grover


      So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

      by grover on Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 05:49:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I buried my dog of 14 years (10+ / 0-)

    a month ago to the day and I can't seem to get a grip. I miss him so much it hurts. I had  many pets over the years, some more special than others, but Jasper and I had a different relationship. He came into my life on moving day,a tiny pup just skin and bones, I couldn't even tell what breed he was. I rushed him to the vet and was told it was a Pitbull! I was horrified! I believed all the ugly stories about Pitbulls. I had cats and a son!There was no way I could keep him, he would grow up and kill us all! The vet  assured me Pitbulls are great dogs with a bad rep and I had to agree any dog can be made mean so we took him home.
    He grew up to be a beautiful, sweet and loving dog. He became companion and protector of a severely abused cat I had taken away from this horror of a woman. He and I were the only ones who could touch her. She even slept with him and Jasper watched over her and wouldn't move, not even for a treat. He was a special dog, one in a million dog and now he's gone and I have a hard time letting him go.

    I can understand why homeless people have pets, at least they bring companionship and love into ones live.
    Thanks for those links.

    El pueblo unido jamás será vencido. The people united will never be defeated

    by mint julep on Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 02:26:22 PM PDT

    •  mint julep, (6+ / 0-)

      I understand. I had a dog that literally saved my life. I was at the lowest point ever and I felt that I couldn't do anything rash because he needed me.

      Your Jasper is watching over you right now. Go outside tonight and you will see a very bright star, it will be Jasper. Pick that star and talk to it, watch it..Jasper will hear you. He is restored to health and is waiting to see you one day.  Tippy, Fayeroe, Henrietta, J.J., Smutty, Levon, Timmee, Amsu and many, many others greeted Jasper when he got to the gate and he has new friends now. He wants you to be happy. Please remember that. P

      “Listen--are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?” ― Mary Oliver

      by weezilgirl on Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 03:02:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  mint julep (5+ / 0-)

      So sorry for your loss. I lost my best-in-a-lifetime dog just two years ago and it was a real blow. It does get easier with time but it is real grief and takes time. I hope you have family and friends who understand.

      Have you done anything to memorialize Jasper?

      We have it within our power to make the world over again ~ Thomas Paine

      by occupystephanie on Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 04:32:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Hi mint julep, (5+ / 0-)

      You may want to check out this page.

      Many larger humane societies and shelters have pet loss programs. You may want to check around. You may have a program near you that has additional resources.

      I'm very sorry for your loss. Now and then, a heart dog comes along, and true to that label, he moves right into our heart, makes himself comfortable and stays there for years. We know he's there -- and often try to put words to it, but can't --  but even then, we don't really have any idea how much he's become a part of us..... Until he's gone, and it feels like someone literally ripped our heart out and left a gaping void where our heart once was.

      Jasper sounds like he was your heart dog.

      I'm sorry.

      © grover


      So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

      by grover on Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 05:57:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  A friend of mine in Austin (8+ / 0-)

    has discovered a community of homeless people. They "share" a pit bull and all make sure he is fed, bathed and has veterinary care. This dog is keeping these people together and in a "family". All due to one dog that had been abused and burned. R checks on them periodically and is going to be sure when  that P.... goes (he is quite old) he will be buried with a nice ceremony and with  the dignity he has given his homeless family.

    “Listen--are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?” ― Mary Oliver

    by weezilgirl on Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 03:05:50 PM PDT

  •  I'm a big-time dog guy (7+ / 0-)

    (hence my nom de DK). I suppose I'd rather be around dogs than people, so I totally get the attraction the homeless feel for them. It's worth remembering that ancient dogs were first domesticated by 'homeless' people, so it's really a match made in heaven. Provided they have food and water (and they obviously do) I'm sure that homeless people's dogs don't feel the least bit deprived. And, considering that they're not locked in an empty house all day just waiting for their friend-beasts to come home, I suspect many of them have happier lives than many an upper-middle-class dog does.

    Like beer, dogs are proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

    The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves

    by DocDawg on Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 06:18:24 PM PDT

    •  Love your last line! (4+ / 0-)
      Like beer, dogs are proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.
      I really believe that. One thing I noticed when we started doing these free clinics is the bond that these folks have with their animals. Very close and trusting. It must be paradise to them to be with their beloved master 24/7.

      They also tend to be very well behaved. We often have over 30 dogs and cats in one small area and there are no fights. When you figure that they are in public for much of their day, good behavior is essential. The one guy who was arrested in front of his dog wound up with his dog being labeled a "dangerous dog" likely to the dog's reaction to the arrest. He was too late to the clinic but I arranged for his dog to get a rabies shot the next week which the police had demanded or he would be put in the pound--a death sentence. One of our partners is the police department. They like what we do too.

      We have it within our power to make the world over again ~ Thomas Paine

      by occupystephanie on Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 10:26:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yours is really noble work (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        occupystephanie

        God bless you for it. But IIRC, you have neglected to tell us where we can best donate to such efforts....?

        The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves

        by DocDawg on Tue Jul 08, 2014 at 05:51:50 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The national group that I link to in the diary (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          DocDawg, whaddaya

          is likely the best. They are a committed group. We apply for a grant every year and follow their guidelines (eg holding it in a place where the homeless gather like a park) and they give us $600 which covers a lot of flea protection and immunizations.

          The group is Pets of the Homeless.

          I will add it to the end of the diary. Thanks for the suggestion.

          We have it within our power to make the world over again ~ Thomas Paine

          by occupystephanie on Tue Jul 08, 2014 at 07:34:44 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  OK, I just tossed 100 bucks into the hat (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            occupystephanie, emmasnacker

            over at PotH. Anybody care to match me?

            C'mon, folks. Gushing about Man's Best Friend and occupystephanie's noble efforts is all well and fine, but nothing good in this world happens without money. Who's in?

            The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves

            by DocDawg on Tue Jul 08, 2014 at 08:23:01 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Wow! (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              whaddaya

              Thank you, DocDawg!

              We have it within our power to make the world over again ~ Thomas Paine

              by occupystephanie on Tue Jul 08, 2014 at 08:40:38 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  They also serve who only (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                occupystephanie

                pull out their wallets. Thank you, Stephanie.

                As for the rest of you, I'm still not feelin' the doggie-style love here. Who else will join me in a little financial support of Stephanie's (and others') efforts as detailed here? Wipe that maudlin tear from your eye and reach for your credit card! Then brag on it here. You know you want to.

                The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves

                by DocDawg on Tue Jul 08, 2014 at 10:20:04 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for your work for these street dogs. (7+ / 0-)

    I, too, have always been deeply moved and troubled by the absolute love and trust dogs put in owners who can't really measure up to it. And I shudder in shame at my failures in this regard in my youthful, mindless past. And I must add quickly that this  "measuring up" is not a matter of socio-economic status - many wealthy people who can buy high class dog houses for their dogs don't deserve their love and trust. It's more a matter of returning that unconditional love and shouldering the burden of responsibility it puts upon you. They tend to love us more than we deserve. My dogs' love for me has always called me to be a better person. I'm grateful for that.

    muddy water can best be cleared by leaving it alone

    by veritas curat on Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 06:40:24 PM PDT

    •  Ah, if I was only the person my dog believes... (4+ / 0-)

      me to be!

      It has been very rewarding. Dogs are a real bridge between people. Most of the owners are responsible and want to take good care of their dogs. I run a free store and get lots of samples of good food--grain free etc--which they really appreciate. What they really love are the collapsible water bowls.

      We have it within our power to make the world over again ~ Thomas Paine

      by occupystephanie on Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 10:34:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Collapsible dog water bowls.... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        occupystephanie, emmasnacker

        ...best idea since sliced bread (which, actually, wasn't all that great an idea, but you know what I mean). One of my dearest friends has MS, and a wonderful, amazing, totally awesome service dog. A vital part of that dog's kit is her collapsible bowl, enabling her to be in service all day as long as long there's a faucet somewhere. That, plus the laser pointer that enables my friend to specify exactly what object to fetch and bring. She also takes the recycling out.

        And as you might guess, the organization that trained that dog and gave her to my friend, Canine Partners For Life, is yet another K9 charity I'm a total pushover for. Highly recommended.

        Dogs for the homeless. Service dogs for the disabled. Dogs that are the most fearless and devoted soldiers and cops of all. Farm dogs that protect flocks and herds (like mine). Search and rescue dogs. Bomb-sniffing dogs. Hunting dogs. And just plain companion dogs, who do in fact make you want to be the person they think you are. Dogs. Gotta love 'em.

        And, in case you missed it, here's the best dog cartoon ever.

        The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves

        by DocDawg on Tue Jul 08, 2014 at 04:24:41 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Best ever. Thanks. n/t (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RiveroftheWest

          Only thing more infuriating than an ignorant man is one who tries to make others ignorant for his own gain. Crashing Vor

          by emmasnacker on Tue Jul 08, 2014 at 07:24:31 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I love that dog cartoon. It covers it all. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RiveroftheWest

          Those bowls are so prized. I had three of them this time and raffled them off. I occasionally get money donated and will use it this time for more bowls.

          All year round I buy harnesses and other gear from thrift stores and garage sales. I put out a box at my church and, now with the police as partner, I will give them a box.

          Thanks so much, DocDawg. You really made my day!

          We have it within our power to make the world over again ~ Thomas Paine

          by occupystephanie on Tue Jul 08, 2014 at 07:26:48 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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