For many homeless people, a companion animal is all the home they have: friend, family, a single constant in an unstable existence.
It is heartbreaking when a homeless person loses the animal who is all she or he has. What a relief when they are reunited.
James & Handover
Fortunately that is how James Bryant’s story ended. His pit bull, Handover, is his “heart and soul.” Five-year-old Handover went missing in Hudson, Florida, on May 8th. A friend of Bryant’s and other locals posted flyers around the neighborhood, and the couple that had found Handover and taken him in saw one. Soon man and dog were reunited.
“I fell to my knees and started crying like a baby. Of course I’d been bawling for two weeks. Every morning, I’d get up and he’s not here. It’s like losing one of your kids,” Bryant told Fox13.
Handover’s disappearance was especially wrenching because he had been a gift to Bryant from his wife, Jean, just before she died of breast cancer. She wanted him to have company after she was gone.
Fox13 reported that the attention Bryant and Handover received helped them get off the streets. But the first thing they did was head to the veterinarian to get Handover microchipped.
Charles & Big Dog
Sometimes it is death that parts a homeless person and his dog. That was the fate facing one man, but he would not accept it.
Charles Gilliam and his 11-year-old dog, Big Dog, were living on the streets in Los Angeles when Big fell ill. He was lethargic and wouldn’t eat. When Gilliam took him to a veterinarian he got the news that Big had an inoperable tumor and should be put down if he couldn’t afford a $2,000 surgery.
Gilliam refused to believe it or to give in. To raise money for veterinary care, Gilliam panhandled. He gave people the vet’s card so they could give money directly to the vet.
The pair had a stroke of luck when Jasmine Dustin, a model and animal rights activist, walked by one day. She publicized their quandary and started raising funds for them on Facebook. The rescue group Cause4Paws joined the effort. The hundreds of dollars that Dustin and the organization raised allowed Gilliam to take Big to a different veterinarian — the not-for-profit Pet Care Veterinary Center, which told him a very different story than the first one had.
According to the new veterinary office’s supervisor, an ultrasound showed no tumors. “Big does have stones in his urinary track and has arthritis,” the supervisor told Life With Dogs. Treatable conditions and no death threat on the horizon — Big surely preferred this doctor to the last one.
Thanks to Dustin’s networking, Gilliam and Big now have a home, and she is providing the special dog food that will help prevent more stones from developing. Big also needs medication for his arthritis.
If you’d like to make a donation towards Big’s care, you can send it to Cause4Paws or to The Pet Care Veterinary Center at 2009 West Slauson Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90047.
Whatever funds aren’t needed for Big’s care will go to Cause4Paws and to the non-profit vet clinic. “Most of the employees are volunteers…they need all the help they can get!!” Gilliam said.
Gilliam wants to pay forward the help he has received. He and Dustin plan to go to Skid Row, a Los Angeles neighborhood known for high levels of homelessness, to find other people and dogs to help.
Dustin said of Gilliam, “from what I’ve seen he’s got a huge heart and lives to help animals.”
Photo credit: Cause4Paws: Gilliam & Big Dog