Thursday, March 4, 2010

Homeless L.A. man back with his pit bull

Here's a great story about love and loyalty.  Only a dog lover will truly understand, but I think everyone needs to see the connection we have with our dogs.  Pets provide more than just companionship, protection, company, etc.  Pets make up an essential part of our everyday life and living with pets makes us truly human.

Please read the story below.  I found it on a blog, Ohmidog!   I hope you will visit this blog for more wonderful stories about life with pets.  I know I will be back to visit  and soon!

I was driving down Century Boulevard when I spotted them — a homeless man, judging from the Vons grocery cart he was pushing down the sidewalk, and a three-legged pit bull in a service dog vest, hobbling alongside, her leash tied to the cart.
I made a u-turn, saw him walking down Hawthorne and, after one more u-turn, pulled my rental car alongside the man and dog as they turned down 101st Street.
His name is Mike Reed, and his dog’s name is Topaz, and as we sat on the sidewalk and talked — next to his bottle of King Cobra malt liquor in a black plastic bag — Topaz, weary from a just completed walk, snoozed on the concrete, wearing a service dog vest that said “Don’t Touch Me, I’m Working.”
Reed has had Topaz for five years. He takes care of her. She takes care of him, helping him cope with life on the streets — the kind of life that can turn violent at any second, and on Aug. 31 did just that.
On that day, he and Topaz found themselves standing innocently in the middle of a confrontation between another homeless man and officers from the Inglewood Police Department.
Reed had just met the man minutes earlier — after the man entered a store and an employee noticed what appeared to be a gun in his pants. Police were called, and tracked the man down. Not knowing whether Reed was an accomplice, officers put Reed in a squad car. Topaz remained on the sidewalk, leashed to Reed’s grocery cart.
As Reed decribes it, police told the suspect to put his hands in the air. The suspect raised and lowered his hands two times. The third time he lowered them, he reached for what police thought was a gun, and a barrage of shots followed.
The gun turned out to be a plastic toy.
Four or five shots struck Topaz, one shattering her hip bone.
“She pulled my Maserati (his shopping cart) off the curb and fell over, but she kept looking at me.”
He pleaded with police officers to let him go to her. “I said, ‘Let me get to my dog, let me get to my dog, let me get to my dog,’ and they wouldn’t.”
Eddie Franco died in the shooting, in which eight officers fired a total of 47 shots, according to KTLA-TV. Topaz was taken away in a police car. Reed was taken into custody, and his possessions were confiscated. He was later released – but given no information about his dog. Having watched as she was struck, he presumed she was dead.
“It threw me,” Reed said of losing his dog. “I’m OK, I can survive an attack or two; we’re in L.A. But they shot my dog. They shot my dog. You can shoot me, but don’t mess with my best friend.”
Reed, 50, who has been described as having “mental problems,” says he has been homeless, or, as he put it  “pulling a Vons” for the last 10 years
Without his dog, “his world was just taken away,” said his friend Tina Larson, who went to high school with Reed and lives near one of the spots where he hangs out.
Two days later, though, a message was relayed to Reed that his dog was alive.
Months before the incident, Ingrid Hurel-Diourbel, founder of Streetsmarts Rescue, had seen Reed and his dog on the street, collecting recyclables, and stopped to talk to him.  She placed one of her organization’s rescue tags on Topaz, who had no identification, and Reed gave her his stepmother’s phone number.
When the Carson Shelter’s animal control unit — where Topaz was taken after the shooting — saw the tag, they called Hurel-Diourbel, who got the message to Reed.
She also started contacting other rescue organizations to raise money for the surgery Topaz needed.
Meanwhile, Reed retrieved his dog, and apparently wasn’t told about how serious her condition was. For several days, rescue organizations searched for him so that Topaz could get the surgery.
When they finally found him, infections had set in. Vets removed her right rear leg at the hip.
It took about two months for Topaz to get up and around, Reed said, and she can’t cover as much ground as she used to. “We can’t go too far no more. We have to stay close. She’s not vicious or anything, but she’s a good guard dog. She she still watches my back,” he said.
“I help her during the day. She helps me at night.”
(Photos by John Woestendiek/ohmidog!)
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