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Pets of the Homeless

By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views

Whenever I’m on the eastside of midtown Manhattan, I see a woman with a shopping cart that is loaded with all of her possessions, and nestled among the clothes is her cat. In New York, I see homeless men with dogs by their sides. Every time, I pass these people, my heart aches.

Photo Credit: Dan Lee for Pets of the Homeless


I’ve handed them some change every once in a while. Yet, I am at a loss at what to do for them. The same thing happened to Mark Arnold, ceo of Critter Alert Center.

“A few of months ago,” he explains “as I was walking into a convenience store I noticed a man and his dog standing at the store corner, presumably to be in the shade. As I approached the man, he mustered up a smile and I asked what his dog’s name was. He introduced Rusty to me, who surprisingly put out his paw to shake my hand when I leaned in to pet him. I thanked him on teaching Rusty this trick as it seemed to break the ice.”

“He told me Rusty was a rescue and obviously a mixed breed. The two of them have been together for six years and when he lost his job as a banker two years ago, his wife left him and he lost his home. He just could not find work once he went to the streets because of his appearance, yet he did manage to do some yard work from time to time and any other handyman stuff he could find.”

“As we chatted, he never once asked anything of me. I pulled out a $20 and said to please go inside and get whatever he wanted while I watched Rusty for him. A few minutes later, he came out with several cans of dog food, a pre-made sandwich and few bottles of water. It was clear he spent more money on his pet than he did on himself. He then put his hand out to give me the leftover money. I politely told him to keep it and spend it wisely. As I was leaving, he put his hand out and I shook it. Almost instantaneously, Rusty did the same.”

Mark never forgot meeting this man and Rusty. He has looked for them from time to time, but has not had any luck finding them. So in order to help those in need, Mark’s company, Critter Alert Center is donating a portion of its registrations to Pets of the Homeless.

Critter Alert Center (CAC) focuses on recovering missing pets. Their goal is to expedite the recovery process so the owner and pet are reunited as soon as possible. Critter Alert Center believes leveraging today’s technology (internet, social media outlets, and wireless communications) is the best way to distribute a missing pet’s information.

“The donations from CAC will enable Pets of the Homeless to provide veterinary care to many pets owned by the homeless that would otherwise go untreated,” says Genevieve Frederick, executive director of Pets of the Homeless. “With the added exposure that Pets of the Homeless will receive from CAC our mission will spread.”

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43 comments to Pets of the Homeless

  • Michele, reading about Rusty and his owner brought tears to my eyes. We should remember how lucky we truly are and try to help our cousins in need. Thank you for this post and for everything you do to help animals.

  • Wow! This really touched my heart. Our pets do so much to enhance our lives; it only makes sense to keep them with us, no matter what. What a great thing to help them out.

  • I also teared up when I got that quote. I really want to do more with Pets of the Homeless. And we are lucky. Thanks for all you do too!

  • Devin Morrison

    Thank you! The homeless are often unseen, and so are their pets. It must be painful being separated from our loved ones–and that includes our pets.

  • Fulvia

    Thank you, Michele! So moving…

  • What a both heartbreaking & heartwarming story Michele !
    As you may know we have in New Jersey ; A homeless encampment called Tent City
    It is in Lakewood a few short miles from were I live , Reading a story about how the residents there coped with hurricane Irene there was a mention of the resident kittens
    that live there as well apparently they are loved & treated well , However I worry about spay neuter for these kitties , After reading this post , I have emailed the pastor that
    helps Tent City residents , I have included info on how to contact ABC, [ Animal Birth Control ] They provide low cost spay/neuter . So hopefully the kittens are altered .

  • Thank you Lydia, for contacting the pastor regarding Tent City. I have heard about it. –Best,
    Michele

  • Jerneja

    Thank you Michele! Another great story, so touching.

  • What a sad situation our country is in, when good people can’t make a living. This story broke my heart. Hopefully the reason Mark hasn’t seen Rusty and his owner lately is that their lives have improved.

  • Margaret

    These pets are so clearly loved. Yet the affluent suburban family has no problem dumping their now unwanted Christmas puppy at the shelter. Perhaps the homeless are lucky in that they appreciate the unconditional love give by their pets.

  • Thank you very much for sharing this.

    Some people object to my helping homeless animals find homes, because they say I should “help people instead.”
    What foolishness. There are plenty of organizations and individuals working to make lives better. But it takes a special person,
    like you, Michele, and Mark, to see and do something for the creatures without a voice.

  • Joni

    What a great story!! It makes me think twice, if i do ever come across a homeless person again. Thank you

  • Irene Miller

    Thank you for this story Michele. I really hope that Rusty, and his guardian have had a lucky break, and had some good fortune come their way.Good luck to both of them!

  • Beka

    hope 1 day homeless will have medical care free of charge and their pets free neuter and care.
    sad.

  • Roberta

    When I lived in Knoxville, TN, the vet down the road treated the homeless peoples’ pets for free. He told me once that those were the best cared for and loved pets he sees. He said that the homeless men took care of and fed their pets before themselves. Often, the dog was the only companionship and love these people experienced. Think about it…those dogs spend all day, every day, with the person who loves them. They’re never left on a chain behind a fancy house and forgotten. Not a bad life for a dog, really.

  • Ken

    Michele, thanks for giving this story some attention. I’ve had the pleasure to meet Genevieve Frederick with Pets of the Homeless and talk about the great work she and her organization provide. There are many people and stories, but what remains is the companionship the homeless and pets provide each other. Here is a link to her interview.
    http://tppradio.com/2011/08/03/btc-17-pets-homeless/

  • All pets are great to be with no matter where you live. When you say to them come here boy, they do so! When you say law down they do so. I don’t think any person in this world could ask for a better friend. I have adopted 2 dogs and they are a member of my family no matter what! They show love to me and in return I give them love back. There is no better friend than a Dog! I can leave for one hour or 10 seconds and they never fail to great me and show love! Where else can you be loved for just being you? LarryD

  • Thank you for bringing to light the needs of pets of the homeless. Seems of all the things theylack the love of and for an animal is not one of them. Makes you think

  • WOw. Great story. Thanks.

  • Barbara

    May God bless the Giver, the Receiver and especially the animals. The older I get and the more humans I deal with, the more I realize the importance of the companion animals. They love you no matter what and you will never,ever have a better, more loyal friend.

  • What a great story and another example on how a dog will love you unconditionally- no matter how much money you have, where you work, or where you live- even if it’s on the street.

  • Thank you Michele for another heart warming story, I do hope this man and Rusty lives have got better for them and Bless Mark for his caring heart and your’s also, There are so many more people and animals that are in the same shape that this man and his dog is and it is so heart breaking.

  • Angelina

    Thank you for this kind and considerate article.

    Homeless people are often among the nicest people on the planet. I became homeless last year and a bunch of lawless British crooks not only destroyed ALL my belongings – yes, all, including legal documents and artworks – and dumped my pets at a shelter, refusing to keep my pets’ documentation with the pets and not even telling the shelter who the pets belonged to. The jerks simply got off on the power trip it gave them.

    Anyway, thanks to friends all over the world, I got my pets back and got back into a home again. I don’t think I would have forgiven myself if I had not been able to continue to take care of my pets. When you take on a pet, you take responsibility for them, and to me, not being able to take care of my pets for a short while made me feel that I had failed as a human being (though it had a lot to do with Britain being Britain, not resembling any other country on the planet, but still… who are you if you can’t even take care of your own pets?).

    I learned many things through the whole process and it included confirmation that homeless people are generally very nice and caring and honest people.

  • TomasSuares

    I also was homeless, and I had my dog at my side all of the time. Thankfully, a distant relative took me in. I got a job, and now my dog and I live a better life. On the streets having a dog at your side is a lifesaver in so many ways. He was my protection, my companion, and my very good friend. Bless you.

  • ~Trish

    I used to make sure that the homeless people’s pets had their shots, so the authorities would not sieze them. I’d take them to the twice-monthly shot clinic and use my address, while the people waited for my return. It’s the least I could do to make sure these people and the animals they love stayed together.

  • Sebastian Advani

    Dear Michele, You have a kind heart. Thank you for bringing up this subject. A lot of people turn the other way when they see homeless people. No one–dog, cat, or human should live on the street. It is just wrong. We need better laws and more humane treatment of all.

  • Ela

    I too am moved when I see homeless people who have a pet to care for. But what about those who appear to be using the animals to tug people’s heartstrings and get them to open their wallets? There’s one man who I frequently see in midtown Manhattan. He creates an entire setup of at least four dogs and cats. The cats are on leashes and do not look at all happy about their situation on a busy street corner, unable to roam. I think they’re better off in this life than in a shelter, but I can’t help wondering if this man is treating them with love and kindness after the “show” is over.

  • AnnaBeth Collins

    This is a very touching story. No one should be homeless and we shouldn’t have stray pets or shelters over crowded with pets. Healthcare should be free too.

  • Jill

    Thank you Michele, that was a very touching story.

  • Michele, I hate that we have so many homeless people and homeless companion animals in our great nation, and we are not caring for them as we could and should. It just tears me up. But I’m glad that some of them have found each other and provide comfort and love in a heartless world.

  • Sam Sherman

    I’ve heard Genevieve speak about Pets for the Homeless. She is inspiring & her organization does such good. Thank you for this moving piece.

  • JoeStevens

    In this economy, anyone can stumble and lose their home or income. It is quite scary. And losing your four-legged best friend must be the ultimate torture. So thanks to Pets of the Homeless and Critter Alert!

  • Henriette

    I was not surprised to hear that he spent more for his dog then for himself. People that have little usually have a much more kind heart as they understand what truly is important in their lives. A companion means friendship & unconditional love. Thanks for sharing Michele.

  • “Thank you” goes to each and everyone of you for your comments. Your comments mean so much. Our work is never done. Now more than ever it takes a lot of encourgement and money to continue our mission.

  • Kathy

    Well said Henriette – you took the words right out of my mouth! Michele, your articles always show such great compassion for animals and humans alike. Excellent work!!

  • It breaks my heart when I see the homeless with pets. I think it’s hard enough to see fellow human beings living on the street and when a pet is added to the picture, it just makes it even more difficult for me to watch.

    I can’t help but wonder how or what they are eating, etc. We stopped in Seattle one year as part of a vacation and I remember seeing quite a few homeless with dogs. In fact the one gentleman had his 3 dogs doing tricks for money.

    I’m not surprised either that he spent more on his dog than on himself. Nice article.

    Janie

  • Thank you so much–Michele

  • Grace Marshall

    What a moving story. It brought tears to my eyes. I cannot imagine the pain of losing everything and then having to give up your pets.

  • Fran Straten

    I am going to check out Critter Alter Center. And thank you Genevieve for all you do with Pets of the Homeless. What a great nonprofit.

  • Mark Reynolds

    Amazing Pets of the Homeless « Pet News and Views site, really like it. I’m sharing, and Thanks Mark Arnold.

  • Roxana

    Thank you for this beautifull, yet sad, story. It gave me much to think about

  • Daryel Monfred

    This brought tears to my eyes, Michele. Petsw of the Homeless is such an important group. We really need to care for everyone–2 and 4 legged.

  • Michael Kavanagh

    It so sad, the photo of the man with the Dog says it all. There is a man with nothing but his Dog still loves him the same as if he had millions.