Thank you to our friends and collaborative partners, Helen Woodward Animal Center for sharing this story with us.
“Actually, my dog, I think, is the only person who consistently loves me all of the time.” – H.G. Bissinger, American Journalist
Furry, friendly, compassionate, and without conditions, pets are a part of us. Walking through the door, our four-legged, two-footed, and finned friends are there to greet, cuddle, love, and at times console us. Animals serve just as great of a purpose for our unsheltered neighbors. Some might even argue that for the homeless, pets have an even bigger impact.
Don’t take our word for it. Read this poignant story about the bond between a homeless woman and her pup. Learn how she went from feeling completely alone and vulnerable to believing in herself through the love of her “adopted” dog.
Susan and Sunshine’s Story*, a Homeless Pet Connection
(*Names and details have been changed to protect privacy.)
On a cold clear night in early February, Susan created her sleeping space for the night. As she arranged her belongings around herself, she heard footsteps from behind. Heart racing, she turned to find a big and happy white and black pit bull coming to rest beside her. She recognized the 70-pound animal as the one who lay beside the corner preacher during the days. She relaxed a little, realizing the dog was not a threat and gave it a pat and a smile. Then she stood up and gently chased the dog away, fearing that the preacher might see her with the dog and think she was trying to steal it. The pup moved a little way off and lay down closer to the curb.
The next morning, as she made her way to Father Joe’s Village, she passed by the dog and the preacher. The dog stood up and wagged its tail. Her time living on the streets had made her wary. She kept her gaze aimed at the ground lest anyone think she was trying to befriend or steal the dog. She spent a frustrating day trying to stay warm and attempting without success to get her phone fixed.
That night as she prepared to sleep, she again heard footsteps and looked up to see the same pit bull coming toward her. This time, she didn’t turn to greet the dog. She pulled her blanket up tight and turned her back. She was afraid of encouraging it and angering the owner. Susan felt the dog settle against her back, but she pretended she was asleep. As the dog slept soundly next to her, she heard the shuffling footsteps and the clink of a leash onto a collar. The dog was led away.
On the fourth night of the dog’s attempts to join her, and Susan’s similar avoidance, she heard the shuffle of shoed feet again. This time, rather than the chink of metal leash on the collar, she heard the familiar voice of the preacher. “If you promise not to sell her you can have her.” “Okay” was all Susan said without turning to face the man.
In that brief exchange, two lives were forever changed.
Through the rains and the winds and the cold of the second and third week of February, Susan and Sunshine had borne things together. Susan now had a teammate, someone who loved her and trusted her. Her dog showed her with licks, smiles, and wags that she was important. In that brief exchange of a few words between the street preacher and Susan, the decision that Sunshine the dog had made was honored. Sunshine became Susan’s. Susan and Sunshine each now had a partner, an ally, a being to depend on and to take care of. They now shared company and friendship, and even more essential, safety, warmth, and love. Sunshine gave Susan a vibrant, tangible and immediate reason to get up each day and to keep trying despite whatever setbacks the day might have in store.
From friends at Father Joe’s Village, Susan learned of a program offered through Helen Woodward Animal Center. The Pet’s Without Walls program (PWW) keeps homeless pets fed and healthy for people experiencing homelessness. After learning about PWW’s next visit, Susan and Sunshine made their way to Father Joe’s Village to have Sunshine examined and cared for. She had never had a dog before but knew that she needed vaccines to keep Sunshine healthy and safe. She was there to find out how much they would cost and how often they should be given.
The PWW staff and volunteer listened to Susan as she shared the story of how she got Sunshine. And then Susan listened to the animal care team as they outlined a plan for Sunshine’s health care. Her physical exam showed her to be in excellent health. The preacher had taken good care of her. Vaccines and de-wormers were administered. Susan was given flea, tick and internal parasite prevention for the dog, as well as food from AniMeals and dog waste disposal bags.
A relationship of trust was born between the PWW animal caregivers and Susan, which allowed them to make a plan together for Sunshine’s continued care. Susan was given a vaccine card and a plan for future vaccines. A discussion was gently begun about the benefits of spaying Sunshine to help reduce pet overpopulation. As Susan carefully added Sunshine’s vaccine book and medications to the contents of a weathered and document-loaded zip-top plastic bag and replaced the bag in her coat pocket, a PWW staff member knelt down to give Sunshine a treat. She turned her head away and leaned into Susan’s leg. The caring staff handed the treat to Susan who offered it again to Sunshine. The gracious dog ate it trustingly with a smile for Susan like only a 70-pound pit bull can give.
“I guess I’ll see you in a month then,” said Susan without looking up. Then off they went, together, Susan holding tight to the slack leash as she and Sunshine stepped out strongly, moving as one into the turbulence of the busy and crowded street.
“People Helping Animals and Animals Helping People”
True to their mission, Helen Woodward’s Pets Without Walls provides vital services for both homeless pets and people. This program wouldn’t be “paw-sible” without support from people like you! It’s because of you, the Lucky Duck Foundation is able to fund this critical program.
In addition to sharing this program with your friends, consider donating to ensure Susan and her four-legged friend have access to essential care. You can learn more about how the LuckyDuck Foundation supports this program and others like it by visiting www.luckyduckfoundation.org.