I have always been an animal lover. Even as a kid, when something happened to an animal, my family would say, “Don’t tell Diane. She will be really upset.” Now, I can take you telling me, and I will still be upset, and I just might judge you. Yep, I said it. I judge you and your animal care. I know my dogs are FAR from perfect. Go ahead, judge me. I would.
I admit over the years, I have been judgmental of people and how they care (or don’t care) for animals.. I have, however, changed one area that I held judgment on for a long time. And that is people who are homeless and have pets.
I always felt it wasn’t “right” for someone who was struggling to care for themselves and find resources to subject an animal to that, too. Animals don't have a say. They cannot decide how their lives and caregivers are going to work out. I always felt so sad for the dogs and cats I saw with their people when they were homeless.
I started to shift this judgement many years ago. There was a woman who lived in our neighborhood behind the library. I would see her just about every day. She was usually screaming at someone I couldn’t see and the screams were mostly incoherent. But everything about her changed the moment she saw my boy Titan. Titan was kind of a jerk. He didn’t like a lot of people and he would be selective about his friends. When he and Suzie saw each other, they were like long lost soul-mates. He would lean into her filthy legs and she would become lucid. During these times, I learned about her life and did what I could to offer help. She didn’t have her own dog, even so she told me she grew up with many and really missed them. Titan was her stand in. I saw evidence of the healing that takes place in the presence of a dog.
There was another family I knew well in the neighborhood. They had been homeless for a while and their dog, Honey Girl, was a constant companion. The husband and wife were usually on my morning walk route and they shared that Honey Girl let them know if anyone was lurking around at night. Because I walked early in the morning, they could sometimes point out who Honey Girl had growled at and would warn me to stay away from them. Honey Girl was about twenty-five pounds and was a security system for this family by night and a companion by day.
Today I met someone that had a cat. I talked to him about how difficult it must be to harness a cat, leash-train it, and bring it to a dog event. He explained that he was between places to stay, between jobs, between a rock and many hard places. The only thing that was easy was caring for his cat. He had a special bag for her so she would be comfortable and it seemed his own comfort was second to hers. It was lovely to see someone care so deeply for another being.
These stories and experiences are not unique. I am sure there are people that are homeless who do not care for their animals. I am sure of it just as I am sure there are people who can do better and still don’t care for their animals. I work with a rescue to help dogs I know need help. And I, as one person, can help when I see a person with a pet living on the streets. While I was thinking about all of these stories, I did a little research. There are local and national groups who will take donations to help pets and people. There are vets and credit agencies that accept donations that will go directly to caring for pets that are cared for by a person that is homeless. And, as always, anyone can carry food and water to offer for pets and people in need.
There will always be a bond between humans and their animals. I have to remind myself that if I were the one on the street, I would most certainly want a trusted friend to be with me. I would hope that other humans understood that need for companionship. And that help, instead of judgement, would come when it was needed.
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