To Pet and People lovers:
This is an incredible and precious story. The original article has many pictures and four videos which are as much a part of the story as the text. Improving the world, one pet/one human at a time. Cheers!!
MAY 16, 2017 - By Glenn Greenwald
More than three years ago, I rescued an older, injured dog named Mabel. I found her on the side of the road, in the middle of the Rio de Janeiro forest, as she struggled to walk.
At the time, my husband, David Miranda, and I already had seven dogs, so we thought, by adopting Mabel, that we were simply adding one more. We quickly learned, however, that Mabel was pregnant — very pregnant — with six puppies, which meant we had actually, and quite unintentionally, doubled our pack in one day, to 14 dogs.
We were able to find amazing homes in the U.S. for four of Mable’s six puppies, and kept two for ourselves. Several of the families who adopted Mable’s puppies described how those puppies enriched their lives.
Since then, animal rescue and animal rights activism has become an increasingly important part of our lives. Our pack has grown to 23 dogs — our limit, we swear! And we have picked up, fostered and placed for adoption dozens more. Each rescue is uniquely fulfilling and gratifying.
In the last two years, our work with animals has taken on a new focus: working with homeless people who live on the streets with their pets. At first glance, this situation can seem grim and depressing: Many assume that animals who live on the street with homeless companions are mistreated or deprived.
But, far more often, the truth is the opposite: The bond that forms between homeless people and their homeless pets is often strong, deep and more profound than many can imagine. The mutual need, and resulting intense devotion, that homeless people and their animals develop for one another is inspiring and can be unlike what one might find in any other context.
The compassion, empathy and self-sacrifice defining the relationship between those who are homeless and their pets is extraordinary. It is difficult to explain how affecting it is to watch a hungry, homeless person receive a desperately needed meal and, without a second thought, instantly divide it in half to share it with their hungry dog or cat. Leslie Irvine, a sociology professor at the University of Colorado, has devoted much of her academic career to studying this unique relationship, and even named her book on the topic, “My Dog Always Eats First.”
As this work became more important to me and my husband, we produced two short documentary films — under the direction of the film unit cocreated by Oscar-winning director Laura Poitras — that showcased two different cases of homeless people devoted to animals. . . .
Last year, inspired by these examples, David and I resolved that we would tap into this uniquely powerful bond and use it to create a new model for providing support for both the homeless population and the animals they care for. We developed a plan for a new type of animal shelter, one that does not yet exist anywhere in the world. The core idea is that the animal shelter will perform many of the functions of traditional shelters: rescue animals in need, provide them medical care and work to place them with suitable families for adoption. We also intend to launch a public campaign to encourage animal adoptions, and create a centralized website for people who lose their animals and people who find animals to access one another.
But the unique attribute is that the shelter will be staffed exclusively by homeless people who live on the streets with their pets and thus have a demonstrated affinity for caring for animals in need. By providing them employment in animal shelters centered around the passion they have already developed — along with social work and other services to aid them in managing their income and transitioning them from the streets into permanent employment — we believe we can utilize the mutual support that homeless people and animals in need provide one another in order to help both.
The goal is to simultaneously empower and improve the lives of as many homeless people and homeless animals as possible. We hope — and genuinely believe — that the success of this project can serve as a model, a template, for inspiring similar shelters in other cities around the world. . . .
Lucas, 20, who also has an adult dog of his own — became the first homeless person hired, and he is now working directly with Francisco to develop the shelter. The salary he began receiving has enabled him to rent an apartment and begin to stabilize his life. . . .
We have also secured the support of a team of volunteer veterinarians, nurses and animal rescue activists to provide medical care to the shelter animals. In sum, there exists now an exciting foundation and a blueprint brimming with potential, to build this new type of homeless-run animal shelter. . .
We are very eager to demonstrate the power of this project so that other similar shelters are created around the world. We will provide regular video and written updates on the homeless people we hire and the animals we rescue and place for adoption.
Anyone who loves animals and has ever adopted one knows what a fulfilling and rewarding experience it is. For those who live on the street — who struggle with the most basic needs and are often rendered invisible — adopting and caring for a pet becomes their central means of fulfillment and purpose. . .