Sunday, June 29, 2014

Four Legged Friends

This pet is homeless. So is his human companion.

Walking around downtown Newport, a low income area, I've noticed how many people have dogs. I don't have a dog myself, but I do have a cat, and I know that dogs have to eat and sometimes need medical care, which can be an expense for people on low incomes. I also know several people on disability who have pets they are quite attached to. One lady has rabbits. I know some of these people will go without food themselves to feed their pets.

I also know lots of better off people who have dogs. I know how much they care about these four legged friends. Sometimes in this world when your two legged acquaintances have failed you, the love and faithfulness of a four legged friend is the best therapy in the world. As a nurse, I also know that animals are healthy and a visit from a “therapy” dog can really brighten up the day for a frail elder.

Now if I were a really mean person, one without a shred of empathy, I'd probably say that poor people shouldn't have pets because they can't afford them. But I'm not. I hope you aren't either, because the calming health-giving effects of a faithful pet for people whose lives are full of turmoil, stress and less-than-wonderful humans, a dog might make the difference between keeping it all together and going off the deep end. This is good for all of us.

Lately here at the center we've been grappling in a personal way with the problem of homelessness in Newport. This has made me realize a problem I hadn't really thought much about before. It's hard enough to find affordable housing if you are a person on social security or disability who doesn't drive a car and has to live near services. It's even harder if you have a pet. If that pet is a golden retriever, it may be impossible. The housing that some people are forced to live in if they are very low income is hardly fit for humans, let alone human and a pet who needs a little space.

So for all of you out there who love your four legged friends, imagine what it would be like to have to either give them up or be homeless. Not much of a choice.