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Homeless L.A. man back with his pit bull

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.”

(For an update on this story click here.)

(Photos by John Woestendiek/ohmidog!)


Comment from MG
Time November 14, 2008 at 10:38 am

What a great story.
They(especially Pit Bulls) really are man`s best friend.
I don`t know if Mike will ever see this but thank you Mike for being a kind and gentle soul and friend to Topaz.
I`m glad you found each other.

I wish some Police Officers would stop judging a book by it`s cover.

Comment from Anne-n-Spencer
Time November 14, 2008 at 2:52 pm

What a beautiful image of pure love.

Comment from LuluAndLolly
Time April 29, 2009 at 1:10 pm

Wow. This is an amazing story. Thanks for sharing. Your PaLs, LuLu and LoLLy. http://www.luluandlolly.com

Comment from Carolyn
Time June 1, 2009 at 3:46 pm

Wonderful man and wonderful dog, but why do the police have to shoot what ever they see, they are not so wonderful

Comment from Ginger
Time June 26, 2009 at 12:27 pm

I am disgusted that the police department didn’t take responsibility and pay for this poor dog’s surgery! Even from a public opinion point of view they should have done so. No wonder that people have such a bad opinion of police in this area.

Comment from kevin
Time July 8, 2009 at 11:27 pm

Yes yes and yes to everyone above. Great story about TRUE love. And not to mention the fact that Police today have no accountablity for their actions….

Comment from beloveth
Time July 20, 2009 at 3:02 pm

wonderful heartwarming story! just looking at the photo of them makes me cry. Shame on the police! I hope and pray that both will get a real home for themselves!

Comment from Mike
Time August 5, 2009 at 10:48 am

“eight officers fired a total of 47 shots”

Thats means that each cop shot an average of 6 times at the assailant. What were they shooting at for so long and how did the cops accidently shoot a dog ???? Would the same thing have happended if the dog happened to be a toddler?

Comment from Elle
Time August 13, 2009 at 10:59 pm

How can we help them? Do you know how to get in touch with Reed?

Comment from Cher
Time August 14, 2009 at 6:11 pm

OMG, what a story! Got big ol’ crocodile tears rolling down my face. I can’t believe how insensitive and cruel cops can be sometimes. There but for the grace of God…

I absolutely love that picture of Mike and Topaz. Talk about complete and utter love for one another. Great story, thanks for publishing it. ?

Pingback from A story of Love and Loyalty | fluffyfeet.net
Time August 19, 2009 at 7:16 pm

[…] To read this great story of love, loss and loyal friends go here. […]

Comment from Dan
Time October 30, 2009 at 1:28 pm

you have beautiful website,
we also have pitbull-store.com website
may we can partnership with you?
Dan at pitbull-store.com

Comment from JoAnn R.
Time November 4, 2009 at 4:50 pm

why shoot first and ask later, 47 shots fired is kinda over”kill” as is evidenced by the fact that the guy with the plastic gun’s death. So so sad that the one love Mr. Reed had was almost taken away by cops inability to keep the peace like they’re supposed to. So happy to know he was reunited with his buddy. Very heartwarming.

Comment from annabelle15
Time November 11, 2009 at 5:34 pm

wat a sweet story

Comment from Elaine
Time November 22, 2009 at 10:40 pm

Those cops – MOST cops – need a serious mental overhaul. Shooting innocent animals is unacceptable.

By the way, I hope you aren’t planning on promoting that Dan guy’s website. He sells garbage like prong collars.

Comment from Rose
Time January 28, 2010 at 4:44 pm

What an incredible story! Thanks for sharing! Your friends at Glendale flowers

Comment from Judi
Time March 17, 2010 at 10:13 am

Another great pit bull story. Don’t judge the dog by his breed.

Comment from Nancy
Time April 28, 2010 at 7:47 pm

Love conquers all… This bittersweet story should be passed out to every person as they leave their place of worship. No matter a person’s faith, there are too many “good –fill in the blank with a faith–” who don their best, do their silent or out-loud praying, tith, sing several hymns, and leave the building feeling they’ve done what their “Higher Power” would want from them for a week.
See a homeless person? Avert eyes
{You know if you give them money, they’ll buy booze.}
See a hurt and/or emaciated animal? Avert eyes
When looking at the photo above – love does, still, conquer all!

Comment from Kimberly Ryan
Time April 13, 2011 at 3:58 pm

I understand the love of a service dog as I have an Blck American Cocker Spaniel “Hayliegh.” She is 11 1/2 yr old and I will be loosing her soon due to her being terminally ill. My heart has been blessed to have her and my heart is hurting.
She has been helping for my fibromyalgia and CFID which runs stystemically through my body.
I am so gald that Reed has a steadfast companion Topaz. How devistating to have to watch his dog get shot. Just reading this story has brought tears to my eyes. I was glad to read that Reed and topaz are together agian.
Bless our animals!
I am glad thats of a

Comment from Dora
Time August 13, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Please realize that Michael is terminally ill and Topaz has cancer and needs surgery. There is a Facebook Chip-In and if anyone can spare even a couple of dollars, please do. I will give a link of a shared post on it and the Chip-In link.


Comment from Maria Quinones
Time November 17, 2011 at 12:03 am

Beautiful both of you who love each other! Nothing can’t separate you! It is what God make to mean each other! it make me cry and still crying the I wish a lot people like you! Pray for both of you find a home together.. I love both of you.. I want to see both of you stay together!