Michael and Topaz: An update
It has been nearly three years since ohmidog! brought you the story of homeless (at the time) Michael Reed and his three-legged pit bull, Topaz.
I ran across them during a visit to Los Angeles, where I first saw Michael pushing a shopping cart down a sidewalk in Inglewood, with Topaz in tow.
Suspecting they had a story, I followed them to a vacant lot next to a gas station, where, sitting on the sidewalk with a bottle of King Cobra malt liquour — Topaz, as always, at his side — he graciously consented to share it.
The story, that is.
A couple of months earlier, on August 31st, 2008, Topaz had gotten caught in the middle of a barrage of gunfire. Police were shooting at another homeless man named Eddie Franco, who they thought had a gun. Franco was killed. His gun turned out to be a plastic toy.
Topaz, shot 4 times, was taken away by animal control — leaving Michael without the dog he’d grown to depend on, or, for that matter, any idea whether she was still alive.
Through a stroke of fortune, he managed to get Topaz back.
Months before the incident, Ingrid Hurel-Diourbel, founder of Streetsmarts Rescue, had seen Michael 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, and helped raised the funds needed for surgery.
Topaz would lose one of her hind legs, but she and Michael would be reunited, resuming their life on the streets for several months. Then, with more help from friends, Michael and Topaz moved into a trailer park, almost two years ago. Things were looking up.
Now comes word from Los Angeles that both Michael and Topaz have fallen victim to some serious medical problems.
Streetsmarts Rescue in Hawthorne reports that Michael is terminally ill with cirrhosis of the liver and Hepatitis C. Topaz has a cancerous lump on her neck — a round cell tumor that will require surgery.
Hurel-Diourbel is trying to raise funds again — about $1,000 for the operation Topaz needs. She’s also trying to find a home for Topaz, for when the day comes that Michael can no longer care for her.
Hurel-Diourbel says she recently spent the day with Michael, who she says has no family to speak of, at the Veteran’s Hospital in Long Beach.
“Michael, homeless at one point, now was being treated with much respect and dignity. It was wonderful to witness,” she said. She added that, during his hospital stay, he told anyone who would listen about his dog.
He has since returned to his trailer in Torrance, which he moved into only with the assurance that Topaz could live there, too. Michael, who acknowledges he has some mental problems, had been looking for work, but without success.
Because it’s not known how much longer Michael will be able to live on his own, Hurel-Diourbel is trying to line up a new home for Topaz, who is 6-years old.
As an outsider, here’s my hope, based on our short visit, and the connection I saw between man and dog: That whoever adopts Topaz — if that occurs before his death — might be willing to let Michael share time, lots of time, with her during his final days.
To learn how to contribute to Topaz’s surgery, visit the ChipIn page that Hurel-Diourbel established.
(You can find a subsequent update on Michael and Topaz here.)
(Photos by John Woestendiek)
Posted by jwoestendiek August 15th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal control, animals, bond, cancer, cirrhosis, dogs, health, hepatitis c, homeless, homelessness, ill, ingrid hurl diourbel, liver, los angeles, michael reed, pets, pit bull, police, rescue, shelter, shooting, sick, streetsmarts rescue, surgery, three legs, three-legged, topaz, tumor