I get asked a lot about the type of people we serve. I hear many comments that stem from both sides - from deep concern for a fellow human being and animals and from the other side of the spectrum with comments born of ignorance and prejudice. "Why do 'those people' think they should have a pet?" is probably the most common - and sad - question. By 'those people' the questioner is referring to single moms who've lost their jobs and homes and are struggling to keep their kids and pets together; they are referring to dignified old ladies who got 'gentrified out' of their apartments of many years due to rent increases, and they're referring to individuals who are struggling with illnesses and trying very hard to stay alive. They are referring to people who love animals as you and I do, people exactly like us, only without an income.
All of 'these people' are homeless. They've usually had their pets for many years and would no more part with a family cat or dog than they would a human child just because life has dealt them a harsh hand. Some of 'these people' are folks who find animals that are strays or abused at the hands of others and out of the kindness of their hearts take care of them. They share what precious little they have with the animals, always ensuring the animal eats first, has the blanket, and is protected. The animal-human bond is never stronger than when life is at it's most challenging.
I've worked with non-profit agencies for about 35 years now and I thought I'd heard it all. That is, until Megan and Ty showed up this week with Daisy, a beautiful and sweet dog with a bad infection on her neck. Megan,Ty and their handsome brindle pit bull are traveling through the area and heard about PAW Team from others who are living on the streets. They walked miles to get to the clinic. They'd just adopted Daisy, a lovely girl who had obviously had a terrible life as a breeder dog. I asked how they'd found each other. Ty hugged Daisy and she licked his face.
"We were hitch hiking on I-5 and someone slowed down a little. I thought they were going to pick us up but then the back door burst open and someone threw this dog into the traffic. They just slammed the door and drove faster" Ty told me. Megan and Ty scrambled through traffic to rescue the terrified and injured dog. From that moment each of them knew they were now family.
We treated Daisy's abscess and she's going to be just fine. She gets along wonderfully with their other dog and is totally devoted to her new humans. Megan and Ty were delighted to hear we could get her spayed through the C-SNIP grant from Animal Aid and are going to remain in Portland until we can get that surgery done. (Learn more about the great folks at Animal Aid here).They'd already neutered their male dog and know how critical this is to an animal's health. They care deeply for Daisy, this sweet dog that obviously had been used and abused by some uncaring, cruel and greedy breeder.
So when I am asked what kind of people our clients are, I think of Megan, Ty and Daisy. Our clients are caring, kind and devoted to their pets. They would do anything for them, even - as Ty and Megan did - rush into freeway traffic to rescue an animal that someone else has thrown away. They would walk miles to find help for their pet and alter their own lives to do whatever it takes to help an animal.
If you were to ask me what kind of people our clients are, I can simply and truthfully say: "Our clients are the best pet guardians I know". It might be tempting to judge someone who is on a street corner with a pet and think they don't deserve the love, fellowship, protection and understanding of a companion animal but I would ask you to think about Daisy and her new people. Now perhaps you could consider what kind of horrifying circumstances that sweet dog had in her previous life when she was under the control of housed and "more traditional" people. If Daisy could talk, she'd no doubt tell you she's never been so loved and cared for as she is with this young couple who have so little. They have - and share - what is important in life: unconditional love.