David Love was bedridden — going through a particularly ugly spell in his bout with liver cancer — when he agreed to babysit a friend’s dog, a pit bull mix named Kitty.
The first thing Kitty did was jump up on his bed and lick his face.
That was a year ago, and Kitty, Love says, has been helping him ever since — lifting his spirits, detecting his seizures and pulling his wheelchair, all without any formal training.
I spotted Love and Kitty on my way through Brookings, Oregon — the last coastal town one who is southbound goes through before hitting California.
We passed him as she pulled his wheelchair across the Chetco River bridge, saw them again cruising down the sidewalk after we stopped for gas, and finally cornered him when Kitty came to a halt in front of a shopping center on the south side of town.
Love had gone there to pick up some medicine and check in on his buddy, a homeless man named Buddy.
He was happy to talk, especially about his dog.
“She’s my motor,” he said.
Though Kitty was initially just visiting, once her owner saw how taken the two were with each other, she suggested he keep her.
Love’s troubles — and he admits he has seen a few — began when he broke his leg while playing college football.
Complications set in — exacerbated, he says, by too many doctors and too much alcohol, and eventually Love lost the leg.
Things went downhill from there, but eventually Love took what he knew about being down, being drunk and being addicted and put it to good use, setting up missions to help those so inflicted.
He ran an outreach in Oklahoma, then moved back to Oregon and set up another. Not long after that, he was diagnosed with liver cancer, which kept him bedridden for long spells. The outreach lost its building, but he now runs it out of the motel room he lives in.
Buddy’s corner is about two and a half miles from where Love lives, but Kitty regularly pulls him the entire way.
“If I don’t hear from Buddy, I get panicky,” Love said, adding that he needed to visit a nearby drug store for medicine anyway.
Love also suffers from seizures, and he says Kitty seems to have developed the ability to warn him if one is coming.
“She seems to know I’m going to have a seizure before I do,” he said. She will put her head on his legs and look at him, and sometimes “she blocks me from going anywhere and won’t let me leave the house.” Love says he has woken up from seizures only to see the dog standing over him.
Kitty isn’t the first dog — or the first pit bull — I’ve heard of who, with no formal training, assumed the role of therapy and assistance dog. (You can read about another in “Dog, Inc.” my soon-to-be-released book advertised at the top of this page.)
Sometimes, dogs– even those not trained for such tasks — just seem to know what to do, how to help.
For Kitty, one of those tasks is pulling, and she goes at with gusto and determination, straining up hills, slowing down at street corners, coming to a dead halt when she sees someone she’s not sure she trusts.
Kitty is 2-1/2 years old, and has had two litters of pups since moving in with Love. In her spare time, such as when Love stops to talk to someone, she likes to roll on her back in the dirt.
During the times he has been bedridden, Love says, Kitty has been at his side, disproving all he’d ever heard about pit bulls.
I walked with them to the drug store. Love handed me the leash and we agreed to meet back up down at the corner where Buddy was sitting.
But when I tried to get her to come with me, Kitty wouldn’t budge, taking a seat and staring at the store. Only after much encouragement did she agree to come, and even then, every five steps or so, she’d stop, sit and stare at the store.
Once we worked our way back to the corner, she took a seat, her eyes never leaving the storefront.
I’d say Love found quite a dog in Kitty, a pit bull that assumed the roles she saw her owner needed — serving not as a fighter, but as nurse, cheerleader, motor and friend.
Posted by John Woestendiek November 19th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, assistance, brookings, coast, coastal, david love, detecting, dog, dog-powered, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, helper, helping, homelessness, kitty, leg, liver cancer, lost, mission, oregon, outreach, pets, pit bull, pit bulls, pulls, road trip, seizure, seizures, service, therapy, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, wheelchair
At the top would be use of a state of the art motorhome — not one of those gas-greedy, road-hogging behemoths, but something a bit more compact and economical, where I won’t constantly be worrying about how quickly my wallet is draining or whether I’m in my own lane.
After that, I’d ask for a continuation of the cooler weather that has finally shown up, reasonable gas prices, an end to any and all weight limits and “fees” charged for bringing a dog along anywhere, health insurance (for me and my dog), world peace, and that Ace and I manage to continue to avoid life’s potholes. Cash, of course, is always nice, too.
Yes, as our financial situation grows bleaker, sending us back to the 401K to continue our journey– assuming there’s still something left of the 401K — I could work up quite a wish list.
But wish lists are a waste of time — they lead one to get so focused on what they’d like to get that they fail to appreciate what they have gotten. They tend to itemize the material things, while leaving out the more important ones. In my case, in the last three months, what I’ve gotten has been a lot. With the possible exception of when I got my first dog — that’s him and me in the picture — I’ve probably never been happier.
I think I was about 10 when it was taken — apparently in the days before focus had been invented. You’ll just have to trust me when I say we were a good looking team. I’m not sure what happened to the snappy red blazer, but Tippy — a gift for my 5th birthday — died, as all dogs do.
Since then, another 45 years passed — as have about a dozen more dogs. There were jobs, and wives, high points and low ones, honors and criticism, thrills and disappointments, challenges and victories, all of which led to where I am today. Specifically, that’s in the house of a friend in Baltimore, who has gone to the beach and offered me lodging in exchange for feeding her cat, named Kitty, who so far has just hidden underneath a chair making noises like a constipated aardvark.
Or at least what I’d imagine a constipated aardvark would sound like.
Where I am, in the broader sense, is: 57 years old, unemployed, without a home (mostly on purpose) and halfway through what I hope to be a six month journey, weaving back and forth across America. With, of course, my dog.
Right now, I am actually in several states: Maryland, Flux, Uncertainty, and, perhaps the most scenic of all, Disarray. I am attempting to make some sense of the jumble of paperwork, books, shoes, clothing and garbage that inside of my car; and fighting off the nagging insecurity of not having a real home, a real job, a real bank account. I am tired of Motel 6’s, fast food and tailgaters.
Yet, for some reason, as Ace and I simultaneously ponder the wisdom of, and rest up for, the next leg of the journey, I am more thankful than ever for all I have — my dog, family, friends and the last three months being at the top of that list.
Ace has truly dazzled me with his ability to adapt to new situations (though we’ll see how he does later this week when we attempt to spend a few nights aboard a not very large and difficult-to-climb aboard boat). He has adjusted with ease to everything so far — new accomodations, new dogs, long drives, curly fries, hot weather, canned food. Being with each other pretty much around the clock, we’ve become even closer, more co-dependent than before, which may or may not be an entirely good thing.
Family and friends have opened their homes to us as we’ve hopscotched the country — and so, on occasion, have complete strangers. We’ve met authors, and Michael Vick dogs, we’ve “couchsurfed,” visited ex-wives and ex-cats, spent time at shelters, rescues and sanctuaries that are doing wonderful things, and had some fantastic encounters with everything from space aliens to strippers.
I’ve learned that people are good, dogs are even better, and America — mired as it may temporarily be by the bad economy — remains, like the old song says, beautiful … and by that I mean both its landscape and the people who occupy it. I am lucky to have seen so much of it and met so many of them — the latter, more often than not, being made possibly by my amazing one-of-a-kind dog.
So, to heck with the wishes; it is a happy birthday; we are going to push on; and the cat under the chair, as I wished, has stopped making noises.
On the other hand, if someone insists on providing us with an RV, we will accept.
(“Dog’s Country” is the continuing account of one man and one dog spending six months criss-crossing America)
Posted by John Woestendiek September 5th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, baltimore, birthday, cat, dog, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, family, freeloading, friends, kitty, money, motor home, motorhome, needs, ohmidog!, recreational vehicle, road trip, rv, travel, traveling with dogs, travels, travels with ace, wish list, wishes
My former cat Miley — the one I took in from the streets of South Baltimore for the winter — is still on the highway, having logged more than 5,000 since joining her new truck driver owner, Kitty.
Miley has now passed through Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia — and that’s just to name a few.
Kitty says Miley is doing wonderfully, and has taken well to living in the truck cab, along with Kitty’s other cat, Chuzzle, and two pit bulls.
They were in Louisville when she touched base with me, headed for Waco.
In another week or so, she predicted they’ll be back home in Oklahoma, where she expects Miley will keep her disabled husband John company as he works on CB radios in the garage. It’s not unusual for Kitty to be gone three weeks or more on the job.
Kitty said she kept Miley in her carrier for the first leg of their journey together — from Frederick, Maryland, where I dropped her off, to Bedford, Pennsylvania, where Kitty was taking a load of Oklahoma hot dogs to a Wal-Mart.
She went inside to do the paperwork and returned to the truck cab to find Miley had managed to pop it open and take up a more comfortable spot on a pillow on Kitty’s bunk — “as peaceful as she could be,” Kitty said. She hasn’t been back in the carrier since.
She’s doesn’t mind the noise and rumble of the big rig and is getting along fine with the dogs, but still hisses when Chuzzle, a male Persian cat, gets too close, especially when it’s time to eat.
“I can’t thank you enough,” Kitty told me, when, as I see it, she deserves the thanks for giving Miley a permanent home. “She is just so awesome”
Posted by John Woestendiek April 23rd, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abandoned, adopt, animals, cat, cats, chuzzle, foster, highways, home, kitty, miles, miley, ohmidog!, oklahoma, persian, pets, rescue, south baltimore, states, stray, streets, temporary, travel, traveling, truck driver, trucks, winter
A quick update on my former temporary cat Miley, now heading to Oklahoma with her new owner, Kitty, a truck driver who saw the ohmidog! video and offered to provide a home for the Baltimore street cat:
“Miley is settling in real well. She is still not sure about Chuzzle. When he gets to close she hisses and growls and runs to her food dish and starts eating her food, almost like she is afraid that Chuzzle is going to eat it.”
This does not surprise me. Miley, in the three months I kept her after taking her in, liked her food early and often — maybe a result of her time foraging on the street.
As soon as I got out of bed in the morning, she’d approach and give a prolonged meow, which didn’t sound like “meow” at all; really more of a wail that continued until breakfast was served. Between the wailing and blocking my path when I tried to walk, she trained me to fill her bowl first thing in the morning.
Annoying as that was, yes, I still miss my unofficial foster cat some. I still stumble out of bed some mornings and, in my pre-coffee haze, head for the cat food.
I’m sure Miley and Chuzzle will work things out, with help from Kitty, who should be arriving back home in Oklahoma soon. Her message was relayed by her husband, who said Kitty reports Miley is a “wonderful cat.”
“I’m looking forward to getting her home with me,” he said.
Posted by John Woestendiek April 18th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopt, animals, baltimore, bar cat, cat, cats, chuzzle, foster, kitty, miles, miley, ohmidog!, oklahoma, pets, rescue, road, shelter, south baltimore, street cat, truck driver
Meet Gregory Pike — currently homeless in Santa Barbara, California — and his dog, cat and rat.
Most days, Pike can be found on State Street there, along with his dog Booger, his cat Kitty, riding atop the dog, and his rat Mousey, riding atop the cat.
The Mayor of Santa Barbara reportedly found it so heartwarming a scene that she had it videotaped and sent it out as a holiday card. We find it to be right up there with the elephant and dog story out of Tennessee.
We also find it more than a little ironic that, if you go to the comments section beneath the dog-cat-rat-getting-along video on YouTube, you can find dozens of petty, mean-spirited, bickering comments from humans who seemingly can’t.
The best factual account of Pike and his animals we could find was in The Bottom Line, a bi-weekly newspaper sponsored by the Associated Students of the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Pike, originally from Telluride, Colo., says he has been studying animal habitats and psychology for about 30 years, has worked with animal rescues and rehabilitation centers for mountain animals, and has a diverse background in animal training.
Pike says the act started ten years ago “when someone said it couldn’t be done.”
“I understand animals and why they do things. I understand some of the barks, and the meows, and what the different ways they do it mean. I’m not a Doctor Doolittle, but I know what they’re asking for.”
Pike told The Bottom Line that he has some insights into what makes people tick as well, and with his act hopes to be able to catch the attention of people to pass on his messages of peace and humanity to the human species. “Peace can happen anywhere — if they can do it why can’t people?” he said.
Pike reportedly hopes to someday open a free pet adoption and rescue center, which is why he keeps a can out for money.
Posted by John Woestendiek January 31st, 2009 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, behavior, booger, california, cat, dog, dog cat rat, gregory pike, homeless, humans, kitty, mayor, mousey, peace, pets, rat, santa barbara, understanding, video