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Dogs of the Homeless

Updated: Feb 1, 2021

I just got back from a trip to the local market, where I stopped to chat with a homeless man. Normally I’m more likely to donate some spare change and go on my way, but I’ve chatted with this man once before—and it’s all due to his dog. Winston is a handsome rottweiler mix whose broad, sweet head just calls out to me for petting. I can’t resist saying hello whenever I see him. I found out that next week is Winston’s birthday. He’ll be 12, and according to the man (whose name I’m embarrassed to say I don’t know), Winston is in great shape.

The encounter got me to thinking about the homeless and their dogs. Winston is most likely in great shape because he gets plenty of exercise; after all, he’s doing plenty of walking every day. I think of the dogs who live in near mansions out here in southern California, whose owners are so busy with their businesses and social lives that they don’t have time to pay attention to their dogs, much less walk them. Who do you think is happier, those dogs or Winston?

Down on the Third Street Promenade, a popular shopping area in Santa Monica, there used to be a homeless man whose dog would come over and take an offered dollar bill from your hand and drop it in a hat. People were quite impressed, and I’m betting the guy took home more money each day than most. The dog was completely friendly, and I’ve noticed the same is true of the majority of dogs belonging to the homeless. After all, by default they’re extremely well socialized from a very young age. They meet all manner of people, are exposed to plenty of sights and sounds, walk on all sorts of surfaces, and I’m sure, meet plenty of other dogs.

I’m sure having a dog is a great benefit for a homeless person, as the dog can offer protection as well as being an ice-breaker that allows people to come over and chat and perhaps lend a hand. But I’m thinking that being homeless isn’t such a terrible thing for the dogs, either, as long as the person takes good care of them. A house may be defined by four walls, but home, well, that’s being with someone you love who loves you back, and taking good care of each other. I think Winston is one lucky dog.


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