I vividly remember as a child seeing homeless people on the street with their dogs and not feeling sorry for them. As a child I had not yet adopted the societal stigmas that all of us face – every person regardless of what status they hold in society is judged one way or another.
As I got older, and as I became ‘wiser’ with the runnings of our culture, I started feeling horribly sorry for every homeless dog I encountered – far more so than for the homeless person. I remember a few occasions in which I would get almost angry – I would rationalise in my head that it was a cruel, selfish and unfair fate to force a dog to live on the street with you.
This was also around the time that I started feeling sorry for people that were poorer than me. I could not understand how a person could be happy and contented while being poor.
Needless to say, I wasn’t particularly wise at all.
The homeless dog argument is similar to the statement that people shouldn’t be allowed to have children – unless they have ‘adequate’ financial security. If this were true and enforced we would be living in an incredibly cruel and backward society.
Poverty is not a personality trait or a characteristic. Just because a person does not have housing, it does not mean that they are not kind or empathetic.
Zeus & I live in Queens Park, London, and we have three neighbours that we encounter on a regular bases – all three live with their dogs on the street next to the Queens Park tube station. We often go to say hi, bring a sandwich and just have a chat.
Here are my experiences with the homeless and their dogs living on the streets of London.
- The dogs are better fed than their owners. I have to this day not seen a single ‘homeless’ dog living with a homeless person on the streets of London that was inadequately fed. Z & I will sometimes make little doggy treat packs and walk around London finding homeless dogs that might appreciate it them – you would be surprised how many turn down the treats because their bellies are so full. Their human will laugh it off – always be appreciative – and tell us that they have no doubt the treats will go down a treat in a few hours time when they have had time to digest their previous meals !
- Homeless dogs are in far better health, nutrition, and physical wellbeing than many dogs that end up in shelters. It is the dogs behind walls, in houses, that are abused far worse than homeless dogs who are a lifeline and a purpose to their owners.
- I have not met a homeless person & their dog who does not know of the local vets that provide free of charge veterinary services to homeless dogs. All London homeless dogs that we know, are in tip top health.
- Homeless dogs are working dogs. Homeless dogs have very specific purposes – and not only do they take their jobs very seriously but like every other dog with a job – these jobs are very rewarding for them. A homeless dog is a service dog, he is a guard dog, and he is a travelling companion. It is also important to remember that dogs are naturally nomadic, that is why we take them on walks.
- Those of us who have raised a dog understand the power of the bond that is created. What many of us struggle to understand how much more powerful that bond can be, and often is, for homeless and their dogs. These are dogs mean everything to that person and they will take care of their dogs before they take care of themselves. This is far more than what can be said unfortunately for many abused and neglected dogs in households.
- Help the dog. Help the human. Homeless people with dogs are much more likely to find housing, to change their lives, and to improve their own situations. These dogs are a life line, they create meaning, and they play an important part in providing purpose, normality, and a sense of pride to the individual.
As I have mentioned many times before, I strongly believe in the therapeutic power that taking care of a dog creates. It is a rehabilitation tool that can help individuals with depression, trauma, behaviour problems, etc. and it is often used as such.
For example my favourite foundation is in the US, it is called Paws for Life, and it is a program of shelters that only hire ex-convicts to work with their rescue dogs – which are primarily ex-fighting dogs. The dog and the human rehabilitate each other, and their success rates are impressive.
To finish I would like to re-iterate again how most of the homeless dogs that you will encounter on the streets today – are far better taken care of than some that live in households.
So instead of feeling sorry for them, go bring the human a sandwich and give the dog a nice big belly rub. You will feel better and you will be helping in that homeless persons rehabilitation because you are showing them that you understand that even if their lives are slightly chaotic – they are taking care of their dogs. They have purpose and they have meaning.
Stay understanding and kind y’all !
Love, Z & A 💜