Day in and day out, our job here at the shelter is to take care of homeless pets; but sometimes, it’s also our job to help homeless people.
All too often people come into the shelter desperate to find a place for their pet because they themselves are losing their homes and have no place to go. Then there are those who cannot bear to relinquish their pets and choose to live in cars, tents in the woods, or worse.
Some may argue that people who can’t take care of themselves should not have animals and in many cases I would agree with that; but what if that pet is their life line? What if that pet has become the thread that keeps them hanging on, keeps them trying to better their circumstances rather than fall into the grips of depression and despair?
You and I are fortunate enough to have a roof over our heads, food at our fingertips, a warm bed to lie in at night and the means to care for our beloved four-leggers. I would find it devastating if I found myself unable to keep my pets, let alone be without the other necessities in life. I cannot imagine being in the position of having to give up my animals; the mere thought of that helps me to understand why some people choose to live without shelter themselves in order to keep their pets with them. But for the grace of God go I ....
Fortunately, we have been able to help some of these homeless folks through some of their trials by offering some of the necessities to keep their pets healthy and sheltered until they are able to find housing. One such man was reported to our Outreach Program several months ago, and so far it’s been a successful lifesaving effort for both man and dog.
The dog is an 11-year-old pit bull; she would have been nearly impossible to re-home had he been forced to surrender her. She was suffering from a ruptured tumor on her ear that had become badly infected. There was no way her owner could afford vet care, nor did he have a means of transportation to get her there and he knew he couldn’t let her suffer. His dog was everything to him. She was the one thing that kept him focused; she needed him and he needed her just as much.
Someone from the community heard of his plight and reached out to us to see if there was any help available for this pair. Going into a homeless “camp” is a little unnerving but a couple of our staff went in to assess the situation and found that, among other things, the dog would need care quickly in order to keep the infection from becoming a major issue. Resources were rounded up and within a few days we were able to get medical attention, appropriate food and a dog house for her. It’s certainly not the ideal situation, but for at least for now the dog is healthy, she is with her companion 24 hours a day (which is heaven for most dogs) and she has everything she needs.
Author Dean Koontz wrote, “Once you have had a wonderful dog, a life without one is a life diminished.”
If being able to keep a pet helps a displaced human feel less devalued and more motivated to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, then I think it is well worth the effort to keep man and his best friend together.
Thanks for your support in providing compassionate care to all in our community.